Trounce St. Joseph: Bishop LeBlond, scoring game's first 38 points en route to 62-19 MEC road decision Friday
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — When two high school sports teams – one deep with senior-class talent, but also sporting promising underclass members, and rightly considered among the best in the state with a 9-1 record, and the other starting two freshmen, missing one of its top veterans with a health issue, and owning a mark the exact opposite of its foe – meet a second time and the first encounter had a 67-13 result, it doesn’t take any imagination to anticipate a beyond-lopsided contest will ensue.
With the favorite generating the night’s first 38 points over the first 14 minutes, Friday night’s Chillicothe at Bishop LeBlond girls’ basketball game was everything that would have expected.
CHS’ visiting Lady Hornets commenced their quest for the program’s first Midland Empire Conference girls’ basketball crown since the 1990s by strolling to their 10th win in 11 games this season, 62-19.
Chillicothe’s next outing figures to be, while not challenging, at least nominally more competitive.
It will open play in the 42nd-annual Bulldog Classic tournament at Kearney tonight, meeting Kearney’s junior-varsity squad in a 5 o’clock clash.
A victory would push CHS into Wednesday’s 8 p.m. championship semifinal – likely against Kansas City: Notre Dame de Sion. The KC club shaded the Lady Hornets 58-55 on a last-second 3-pointer after Chillicothe had rallied from a 12-points deficit early in the fourth quarter.
Friday’s perfunctory thrashing at Bishop LeBlond saw CHS head coach Darren Smith turn the game into a laboratory, having alerted BLHS first-year head coach Bryan Adkins to his plans beforehand.
“In a game like this, the main thing that we want to do is make sure we respect the other team and respect the game, and I thought we did that,” the Lady Hornets chief remarked in a post-game broadcast interview.
Tinkering with player combinations, offensive and defensive sets and strategies, and multiple times making 5-for-5 player switches, Smith used a CHS-record 17 players.
“We’re trying to work on a little bit of a press and a little bit of a trapping 2-3 (zone) and just some different things,” the coach explained, aware late-season and postseason play often produces previously-unencountered circumstances a team must be able to adapt to to prosper.
The emotional highlight came in the third quarter when seldom-used senior Sheridan Guilford – one of 10 12th graders on the Lady Hornets, but not out for the sport since she was a freshman – fired and hit a right-side 3-pointer off the pass of fellow senior reserve Carly Gardner. They were Guilford’s first three varsity points, but not her last, as she later added a jumper from the left elbow off Whitney Clampitt’s setup.
Chillicothe’s biggest weapon early was its smallest player – 6’3” senior point guard Karson Keithley.
She started the scoring with a left-corner 3-ball off Hannah Jones’ pass and had added a layup and another triple before the opening frame was half-complete. She’d have another long-ranger later to finish the game with 11 points, one of three CHS players to score in double digits.
“She’s shooting it really well right now,” Smith affirmed. “… She’s finding her range and finding her stroke.”
Before the opening segment reached its conclusion, Smith already had lifted four-fifths of his starting lineup en masse, but it didn’t materially affect the flow of the game. Gardner was part of the first large swap of CHS players and canned a trey of her own off another Han. Jones assist to cap the Lady Hornets’ 23-0 dominance of the initial quarter.
Even with Chillicothe tinkering and experimenting, the spread between the clubs continued to widen with the host Lady Golden Eagles still holding a doughnut.
Finally, after a technically-perfect baseline give-and-go between Clampitt and Maggie Leatherman with Clampitt starting and finishing the play made it 38-0 at the 1:52 mark of the second stanza, BLHS broke through.
Advancing the ball to its forecourt against rather tepid defensive pressure, it got the ball into the hands of sophomore reserve guard Brigid Lehman on the right wing. Quickly triggering from outside the 3-point arc, she swished the nets and Bishop LeBlond had avoided a scoreless half.
With CHS in front 43-5 at the half in spite of having already used 15 of its 17 players fairly extensively, the officiating crew huddled with both head coaches prior to the resumption of play and mutual agreement was reached to have the third quarter reduced in time length to six minutes.
Chillicothe managed only three baskets in those six minutes, but still outscored its host 9-4 as Clampitt, Guilford, and Harlie Jones all rang the bell from downtown.
The 52-9 lead entering the last quarter put standard “running clock” timekeeping procedures into use, so the normal eight minutes were played.
That ended up giving the plucky Lady Golden Eagles enough time to more than double the previous points production. They netted 10 tallies in the frame, matching Chillicothe’s output to leave the final margin at 43 points.
Statistically, in addition to K. Keithley’s 11 markers, CHS had 16 from Whitney Clampitt and 14 from Katelyn Parkey.
K. Keithley and Maggie Leatherman each unofficially had four assists to pace an impressive 18-assists team showing and the Lady Hornets unofficially mounted a 32-13 rebounding cartel.
Led by K. Keithley, the Lady Hornets also picked this occasion to have their best outside-shooting night of the season, firing in 10 of their 21 3-points shots.
The game almost was foul-free, in the assessment of the officials. A mere four fouls were whistled on each team.