Clampitt 3s, Harlie Jones steals trigger 42-40 win over KC: Staley in Savannah Invitational Saturday after trailing by 11 in third quarter
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
SAVANNAH, Mo. — On a day when the most dynamic players on both Chillicothe High School varsity basketball teams had a dickens of a time finding their shooting range, both also answered the alarm when it counted most to help deliver an incredible pair of stunning comeback victories.
After Hornets senior guard Cade Snyder scored 15 of 18 CHS points in the fourth quarter – including a tying trey in the last 15 seconds of regulation time – and a three-points play in the first five seconds over overtime in a 60-55 OT triumph over Platte County in the third-place game of the 88th-annual Savannah Invitational Tournament (see related story on page 10), Lady Hornets senior Whitney Clampitt notched seven-straight markers – also including two late bombs and then the go-ahead free throw with 6.3 seconds remaining as CHS took the girls’ division championship, 42-40, over Kansas City: Staley.
Behind for the first time this season when Staley scored the title contest’s first basket and ahead only at 4-2 until Clampitt’s charity toss in the last seven seconds, the top-seeded Lady Hornets erased an 11-points deficit from the third quarter.
With their outside shooting far off its usual standards, the Chillicothe girls had to rally down the stretch with tenacious defense, an opportunistic transition game, and, finally, the 3-point shots they’d almost-unanimously missed in the first 30 minutes of the 32-minutes contest.
Having used Karson Keithley’s driving scoop shot and five Maggie Leatherman tallies – four uncommonly on fast-break layups – to dart with 36-30 at the end of the third stanza, the Lady Hornets still were behind by six when the Kansas City club scored inside with a bit over three minutes remaining in regulation time.
The CHS defense made those the last Lady Falcons points of the day – not only getting defensive stops, but forcing five turnovers in the last three minutes that translated to seven of the eight rallying tallies.
With the game into the final two minutes, Staley possessing the ball, and the gap still six points, Lady Hornets head coach Darren Smith smartly substituted situationally, inserting two reserve guards – senior Jalynn Reeter and junior Harlie Jones – to have a quicker quintet capable of hounding the ball on the perimeter as the Kansas City squad tried to run the clock.
The changes paid huge dividends as Har. Jones made a steal which, in transition, Chillicothe turned into a 3-point shot for Clampitt with 1:40 left.
As Staley again tried to kill time, one of its players dribbled past one Lady Hornet, only to unexpectedly encounter Reeter and be forced to make a hurried, off-balance pass in midair. Again, Har. Jones stepped in to deflect the pass, the ball going right to another Lady Hornet, creating a chance to tie.
At the offensive end, it was the same Har. Jones, from the right wing, finding and feeding Clampitt as she pulled up just outside the arc. With no Staley defender reacting to Clampitt’s stopping, it left her all alone to quickly set her feet, jump, and fire the tying triple home with still 1:05 left.
After Reeter, on instructions from the bench, committed only the team’s sixth foul of the half as a player tried to dribble-drive past her, the Lady Falcons again put the ball in play. Rather than trying to kill the remaining time and try for a tiebreaking shot just ahead of the buzzer, they ran their normal offense and, as the clock entered the last 20 seconds, slipped the ball to a player cutting toward the basket. CHS 5'3" Keithley flashed in front of the shooter as she went up for about a 3-footer and the attempt was too strong, caroming off one CHS player’s hands to the opposite side of the lane where Hannah Jones happened to be alone.
Rather than look for instructions from the bench about a possible timeout, Han. Jones alertly spotted Clampitt racing across midcourt on the opposite side and fired a long pass to her, creating a 2-on-2 situation. Wisely, the Fort Hays State University-bound Lady Hornet drove the ball toward the basket and, as she cut into the lane, was fouled with 10 seconds on the clock.
In the “bonus” situation, she critically made the first one, putting CHS ahead. Staley rebounded the missed second try, but, after rushing the ball to the forecourt, the ball was tapped away from a driving Lady Falcon by Clampitt, going right to Han. Jones, who was fouled with 3.7 seconds to go.
This time with a “double-bonus” opportunity, the senior got only the second try to drop – her only point of the game, leaving Staley still with a chance to win or tie with one shot, facing a 42-40 deficit. However, Staley attempted a long in-bounds pass which went through the intended target’s hands to a Lady Hornet and, improbably, victory and a second Savannah tourney title in three years belonged to Chillicothe.
The combination of crisp, precise execution by Staley of its cutting, basket-attacking offense and Chillicothe’s total inability to hit treys put the Lady Hornets under the gun after their early success.
Runs of seven and then six unanswered points allowed the big-city team to establish a 6-points lead by early in the second stanza. The Lady Falcons largely maintained or embellished that lead into the fateful last two minutes. With 3:34 left in the third quarter, 5’10” Jen Harvey’s three-points play made it 34-23 and left the impression this wasn’t destined to be the CHS girls’ day.
However, the flurry of points by Keithley and then Leatherman down the stretch of that frame gave the Lady Hornets a boost of confidence, allowing them to be within two possessions with a quarter to go. Although Staley scored first in the last stanza, that bucket was quickly countered by Clampitt’s left-elbow pull-up jumper with 5:05 to go and Chillicothe was never more than two possessions down the rest of the way. Under the gun, CHS outscored its foe 19-6 over the last 11:15.
Statistically, Clampitt’s late offensive heroics propelled her to a 22-points showing, her best yet this season as she’s led the club in scoring in all four triumphs to date. She also led the club with four assists.
With other higher-profile teammates struggling on offense, the unsung Leatherman stepped up to tally nine points, one of the highest totals of her career.
Largely offsetting Chillicothe’s unofficial 28-19 deficit in rebounds was its unofficial plus six (8-14) in turnovers. With only eight players in uniform and several of them being in serious foul trouble – particularly late, Staley appeared noticeably slower and less crisp in its offense in the fourth quarter, perhaps because of fatigue. That likely was a factor in Chillicothe’s success in causing the four turnovers in the Lady Falcons’ last five possessions.