Take lead with 13-0 run bridging first, second quarters, never trail again in 55-38 home victory over St. Joseph: Bishop LeBlond Thursday
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — Generally, sports teams and athletes love to be in the “zone,” but lately that’s been a dirty word for the Chillicothe High School basketball Hornets.
Thursday night, freed from the zone defenses several teams have flustered them with of late and facing a foe without a tall defensive presence to thwart them around the rim, the Hornets began Midland Empire Conference play for their 2016-17 season with a pleasing home win.
Steadily using good ball movement and patience against a game-long man-to-man defense to create either open 3-pointers or good, short-range shots, the Hornets handled the visiting St. Joseph: Bishop LeBlond Golden Eagles for a second time in as many meetings this winter. Winners by seven on a neutral court in both sides’ season opener in late November, Chillicothe opened a double-digits lead in the middle of the third quarter this time and largely kept it there in a 55-38 triumph.
“I felt like our defense was really solid against a good LeBlond team that shoots it extremely well,” Tim Cool, CHS head coach, said in a post-game broadcast interview.
The home club had multiple strong contributors, but was led by senior Cade Snyder. He not only led the Hornets with 19 points, but also with seven rebounds, five assists (matched by Jack Willard), and three steals. Three of the five assists set up Willard treys.
Walker Graves provided a season-best 12 points and five boards and point guard Willard netted 11 points and snared three caroms to go with his five assists, floor generalship, and persistent defense on BLHS’ top player.
In perhaps the game’s most-impressive statistic, the Hornets unofficially committed only four turnovers – only one in the first half. They also unofficially earned assists on 14 of their 21 baskets.
The victory – CHS’ second in its last seven games – put the Hornets back above .500 at 7-6 overall. Bishop LeBlond dipped to 8-5 as it fell in its MEC debut for this season.
“It was really important,” Cool emphasized of his team’s need to get back to its earlier form heading into a very tough next outing.
Chillicothe’s boys will journey to Maryville next Tuesday for a conference meeting with the Spoofhounds, who knocked recent MEC kingpin St. Joseph: Lafayette on the Fighting Irish’s court in its league opener earlier this week.
“For them to go into Lafayette and beat them on their home court was pretty impressive,” the CHS coach said of the ’Hounds.
“… They’re senior-loaded now, very talented. We’ve got our work cut out for us.”
Coming off a sickly 31-points performance at Lawson only two nights before, CHS’ Hornets found the home-court baskets much more accommodating of their shot attempts. They sank just over half of their 29 2-points attempts and 40 percent of their 3-points tries, sailing past the prior game’s scoring output in the middle of the third period and never really hitting a lull.
As they’ve done several times during their recent downturn in eventual results, the Hornets put together a strong run in the first 1-1/2 quarters.
This time, after Bishop LeBlond produced the first four tallies and then answered four by CHS with another quartet of markers to lead 8-4, Chillicothe held the visitors without a point for nearly eight minutes while ringing up a baker’s dozen themselves. CHS never trailed thereafter.
The decisive spurt began with Ben Jones’ lane lay-in off Willard’s in-bounds pass from the baseline, the righthanded Snyder’s lefthanded shot from seven feet away in mid-lane, and a Jones free throw that left the Hornets on top 9-8 after one frame.
Freshman Westley Brandsgaard accepted an “extra” pass from senior backup guard Todd Christo and canned a right-corner trey to open the second period before, twice in 30 seconds, Graves took well-timed and well-aimed post-entry passes from Christo on the right block and converted them to deuces with power moves – the firest of which drew a foul that the burly junior used to produce a three-points play.
Once ahead 17-8, Chillicothe always remained at least two possessions ahead.
A 7-2 mini-spurt in the closing 3:15 of the opening half made it a 24-15 advantage at intermission and, after a pair of Golden Eagles long-range shots swished to twice bring them within six, the Hornets doubled that gap via Brandsgaard’s power finish on a drive from the right wing via the baseline, two Graves foul shots, and Willard’s layup after a sensational defensive effort by Snyder. Twice after initially deflecting a short pass, Snyder dived to prevent a BLHS player from regaining control, the second time prying the ball loose toward the CHS basket where Willard collected and scored it at the 4:24 mark of the third stanza.
Three times thereafter the visitors scored to cut a double-figures deficit to eight, only to see CHS restore its lead on its subsequent possession.
Finally, with a 10-points lead and under 3-1/2 minutes left, Chillicothe gained possession and took a timeout, prompting speculation that – given BLHS’ proclivity for and skill at shooting 3-pointers – coach Tim Cool would want his team to try to limit the number of times the foe could get the ball back by trying to possess the ball for extended amounts of time without looking too hard to score.
However, the CHS chief’s instructions seemed to be not to back off at all, while still making judicious decisions.
Out of the stoppage, the Hornets quickly executed a play with only about four passes before Willard slipped the ball to Snyder down low for a left-side lay-in.
After BLHS failed to score on its next possession, Chillicothe worked the ball inside to Jones, who could have shot from within five feet, but he instead fired the ball back to the top of the key where totally-neglected ninth grader Brandsgaard, without hesitation, rose up and fired home the last of the team’s trifectas for a 15-points lead with 2:45 left.
The take-no-prisoners approach seemed to drain the life from the St. Joseph squad, which ended up being blanked the game’s last 4-1/2 minutes. When Snyder tipped Willard’s missed free throw to Graves and then was left all alone under the hoop to receive Graves’ pass for the game’s last tallies, Chillicothe ended the contest with its largest lead.
Bishop LeBlond did not have a double-digits individual scorer. Gian Lombardino had nine points via three of BLHS’ seven triples.