By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
Chillicothe High School's basketball Lady Hornets held their own against the favored Smithville Lady Warriors for over half of last night's Midland Empire Conference game in the CHS gymnasium.
Unfortunately for the Lady Hornets, by the time they did so, they were behind by double digits and thus could not avoid absorbing a 48-32 defeat.
Familiarly, the CHS girls (9-10, 0-2 MEC) scored only two of the game's first 11 points and had only one field goal in the first 10 minutes of action.
"If we get those first few (shots) to fall, we play with a lot more intensity and a lot more confidence," Lady Hornets head coach Rachael Parkey reiterated about the criticality of her club getting some points up early, even if not enough to seize the lead right out of the chute.
Chillicothe's second bucket of the night – reserve Lexi Snyder's putback of her own miss – surprisingly left it behind only 14-8 at the time against a Smithville club surprisingly off-target with its shooting from nearly any distance all night.
Even with that good fortune, the Lady Hornets could never put the Lady Warriors in serious jeopardy of an upset.
After trailing 14-6 after one stanza and 35-16 in the middle of the third quarter, Chillicothe put together a quiet flurry – a Maggie Graves putback of a Madison Williams miss, a Williams 17-footer from the key, and Erin Gilliland's right-wing trey off Hallee Jones' pass – which, less than a minute into the final frame, had them down by only a dozen.
Theoretically, if it could grind out a couple more defensive stops and net another shot or two, Smithville (15-4, 1-1) might feel the squeeze and unravel.
However, the opposite occurred, with CHS going scoreless for the next 3-plus minutes and the Lady Warriors fashioning a 7-0 mini-run to match its largest lead of 19 points.
"In the third quarter, (the Lady Hornets players) came out and ran several (set plays) to perfection," Parkey said in her post-game broadcast interview of her team's brief surge to the outskirts of contention. "I was proud of the girls for seeing the floor and being able to do that.
"I know they can because I see them do it in practice. I just told them in the locker room the next step is to expect to win – it doesn't matter who you're playing, expect to win – and expect to get out there and know you can run those plays for four quarters and not just for a few minutes during one of the quarters."
The first opportunity to take that next step will come on the home floor again, but against probably the premier team in the MEC this year (as most) – St. Joseph: Benton's Lady Cardinals. Benton, which has not lost to Chillicothe in 10 years, will be here Thursday for a standard 5 p.m. tripleheader.
Page 2 of 2 - "They're good," acknowledged Parkey, who, as a junior, scored the winning point in overtime in the last Lady Hornets triumph over Benton. "It's going to be a tough, tough, tough game."