(Updated 1:30 a.m. Wednesday) Lady Hornets easily earn ninth win of season, Hornets' shooting slump continues to vex
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
LAWSON — The Chillicothe High School varsity basketball teams Tuesday began the new calendar year in the manner they concluded the old year.
For the Lady Hornets, that was a pleasing thing. For the Hornets, not so much.
The Lady Hornets advanced their 2016-17 won-lost record to 9-1 with another efficient, well-focused triumph, 55-24 over the Lawson Lady Cardinals.
The Hornets then experienced, to a degree, a rerun of their prior outing, looking sharp on offense for about 11⁄2 quarters before seeing an invisible lid drop shut on their basket the rest of the way as they fell to Lawson 43-31. The outcome dropped the CHS boys’ record to 6-6, including losses in five of their last six tries.
“I think I’ve got a bunch of girls that really want to be successful and they know it’s their last go-around and they are working their tails off to be the best they can be and I’m awful proud of them,” Darren Smith, Lady Hornets head coach, summarized his team’s latest rout.
“We held a good team to under 50 (points),” Tim Cool, Hornets head coach, noted a positive aspect of his team’s performance. “If some of our shots fall, it’s a different game.”
Even though many were relatively-clean looks at the rim, the CHS boys made only 38 percent of their shots from 2-points distance and 12 percent from 3-points range in the game.
Both Chillicothe teams face St. Joseph: Bishop LeBlond next in their Midland Empire Conference schedule openers. The boys do so at home Thursday night, the girls on the road Friday.
Each CHS squad owns a prior win over BLHS this season. The Lady Hornets opened their push to the championship of the Savannah Invitational Tournament with a 67-13 romp over the Lady Golden Eagles. The Hornets began their campaign with a 49-42 victory in the first round of that tourney, as well.
Cool expects to see his club right the shooting ship soon.
“The right guys are taking the right shots at the right times,” he reports. “They’re going to start falling.”
Thursday’s boys’ varsity/junior-varsity doubleheader is set to begin at 5 p.m.
“I’m really excited about these guys battling through this adversity and coming out on the other side,” Cool declared. “Right now, it’s rough, but successful people understand that things can get hard sometimes.”
Friday night’s girls twinbill at St. Joseph also will begin at 5 p.m.
“They’re struggling a little bit this year,” Smith said kindly of the Bishop LeBlond girls.
“We’ve just got to go in and, kind of like we did (Tuesday), go out focused and ready to play do what we do.”
The Lady Hornets then will enter next week’s 42nd-annual Bulldog Classic Tournament at Kearney, where they seem to be the No. 1 seed. They’ll open Monday at 5 p.m. against Kearney’s junior-varsity team.
As has been mostly routine, but not monotonous, this season, the CHS girls wasted no time in grabbing Tuesday’s contest by the throat.
On their opening possession after controlling the tipoff, Maggie Leatherman, from the right baseline, found Katelyn Parkey all alone just left of the key with a bullet pass and the 6-footer drained the open trey just 27 seconds in. Chillicothe was on top to stay.
A run of six unanswered tallies, including four in a row by Karson Keithley, moved the lead to 9-2 and an 8-0 surge in he last two minutes of quarter No. 1 left the Lady Hornets in command, 19-7, after one stanza.
“My team has come out more focused, at the beginning of games this year, than they did last year and the year before,” Smith marvelled in a post-game interview, reiterating an observation he’s made previously.
“I know our game plans, what we’re trying to get accomplished, have been followed, for the most part, much better than they were” in Smith’s first two seasons at the CHS helm.
The second quarter saw the Lady Hornets’ dominance increase further.
K. Keithley ripped the cords with a 22-footer off Whitney Clampitt’s cross-court pass 35 seconds in to extend the string of consecutive CHS markers to 11 before Lawson interrupted with a trey of its own.
That, however, would be the only scoring the Lady Cardinals (6-5) would do in the frame, which Chillicothe closed with another extended run – this one 10-0 over the last seven minutes – for a 32-10 halftime lead.
K. Keithley made it 12 points in a row for the visitors when she scored 15 seconds into the second half and CHS closed the third stanza with the last three field goals – a breakaway layup by K. Keithley, a nifty give-and-go along the left baseline between Clampitt and Leatherman that Clampitt finished, and then another sweet passing play as Clampitt drove to the left baseline and, as a double-team approached, bounced the ball inside to an open Emma Leamer for a 7-foot bank shot that made it 45-19 after three.
The final segment was highlighted by senior reserve Carly Gardner’s trey from atop the key, junior backup guard Harlie Jones’ triple, and a pair of low-post deuces by junior Liberty Cox off feeds from sophomore Maggie Pfaff that set the final spread at 31 points.
Statistically, Clampitt’s 15 points led CHS with K. Keithley adding a season-best 11. Unofficially, Leatherman paced the rebounding with seven boards and also had three assists, one less than team leader Hannah Jones. Clampitt also had three helpers.
Chillicothe unofficially was guilty of only five turnovers.
Lawson’s leading scorers was Addy Cress with 11 points.
The boys’ game went along a path somewhat similar to Chillicothe’s loss to Kansas City: Northeast last Friday, although not at the same pace.
Against Northeast, the Hornets opened a 32-11 lead about three minutes into the second quarter, only to go sour on offense after halftime and eventually lose by seven in overtime.
At Lawson, Chillicothe’s boys shredded the Cardinals’ man-to-man defense for an 8-0 lead in the first three minutes, but eventually stalled out when the opponent went to a zone – just as happened against Northeast.
Gaining possession of the opening tipoff, CHS’ Zach Trout quickly moved in and scored from about four feet away five seconds into the action.
Walker Graves followed with a short-range shot 30 seconds later, Ben Jones converted a pass from Trout on the third Hornets possession, and Cade Snyder drove and scored with the left hand 70 seconds after that for the flash knockdown.
“I thought we came out from the start and and really showed that we were ready to play,” related Cool.
The hosts then got their bearings and answered with their own 8-0 burst before CHS took a 13-11 lead at the end of one.
A tough putback of his own miss by Snyder, using english to scoop his lefthanded shot from under the backboard off the glass and in was followed by a third Graves hoop and Chillicothe led 17-11 65 seconds into the second period.
Lawson scored five points in 23 seconds to draw within one, but, after it failed to tie or take the lead at the free-throw line, Snyder scored inside twice in 37 seconds to inflate the cushion back to five with 3:12 left in the opening half.
Then the Hornets got locked in the freezer, scoring only one field goal – a Konner Sewell trey at the 3:29 mark of the third period – over the next 11:20.
Reflected Cool, “I thought early, especially in the first half, we got some really good shots and they just aren’t going in right now, but the guys need to stay confident. I’ve got all the confidence in the world that those shots are going to go in.
“We’ll keep working at it.”
Thanks to sturdy Chillicothe defense, Lawson wasn’t able to take much advantage of the lag.
The Cardinals did close the first half on a 7-0 spurt, taking the lead for good with 20 seconds left on standout guard Cody Glenn’s third and final “3” of the game. They then scored the first three points of the second half, but needed more than four minutes to do so, and they began the fourth period in front only 28-24.
Hornet Westley Brandsgaard converted a Graves “dime” into a deuce 10 seconds into the last stanza and CHS, despite its shooting woes, was within a possession, but only momentarily.
Lawson’s Keaton Porth scored inside 20 seconds later and Max Ross’ steal and three-points play at the 6:10 mark made it 33-26.
That, as things turned out, would be enough for the Cardinals as the Hornets scored only two points in the seven minutes after Brandsgaard’s bucket, repeatedly missing makeable shots inside and out.
Statistically, besides the CHS field-goal shooting percentages, the number which jumps off the sheet is that the hosts were whistled for only six fouls in the game, compared to Chillicothe’s 20. Contrary to what is seen many times, the Hornets did not foul excessively late in the game in an attempt to rally.
Aa a result of the disparity, the Cardinals attempted 18 free throws – hitting only 10, while CHS was one of four at the line.
Snyder and Glenn shared game scoring honors with 13 points apiece. Glenn is thought to have been averaging well into the 20s, prompting “props” from Cool for main defender Trout.
“He played so well defensively and played so hard,” the coach saluted the senior. “… Zach held him to way under his average. He played really, really well.”