Minus veteran Snyder for season, CHS boys can't keep pace with MEC's lone unbeaten in league play Friday

ST. JOSEPH — Already having suffered a critical loss even before they set foot in  “Pop”  Springer Gymnasium at Benton High School Friday night, the Chillicothe High School basketball Hornets outscored the host Cardinals by four points after halftime. However, their chance to move into a tie for the Midland Empire Conference lead already had gone up in smoke after a blazing first half by the home club.
Benton’s Tre Flowers drilled a 3-pointer from right of the key for the game’s initial scoring and the Cardinals had scoring runs of seven, six, and six markers in the first period alone on their way to a lead of 36-16 at the half and eventually a 67-41 conquest of CHS.
Chillicothe was playing its first full game since senior team leader Cade Snyder – in his third year as a starter and second season as the team’s top scorer – went out for the year with a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee. The injury was sustained early in the second quarter of last Tuesday’s game at Smithville, a contest the rest of the Hornets were able to take up the scoring slack in to score a decisive victory over a 1-win Smithville squad.
Facing a Benton club on its home floor on its Court-warming night proved to be another task, indeed.
“You can’t just replace a Cade Snyder, so everybody’s just going to have to do their job and do what they do well and not try to do too much,” Tim Cool, CHS head coach, reflected in a post-game broadcast interview Friday.
“We’ll have some guys who just naturally step up.”
Although the degree to which Snyder’s absence factored in to both CHS’ offensive and defensive performances in the opening half Friday is impossible to fully assess, given that, with his size and athleticism, he likely would have been assigned to guard Benton’s top player, 6’2” Saxton Thuston. Without the senior, the Hornets didn’t have anyone who matched up with Thuston’s quickness away from the lane or jumping ability around it and it showed.
Cold with his shooting from the floor early on, Thuston, who entered averaging just over 20 points a night, used his mobility to draw fouls from mismatched defenders twice in the first quarter and five times in the opening half. He made seven of the 10 foul shots he earned and eventually heated up from the field enough to have 16 tallies by halftime.
The half, which saw Benton follow its three first-frame spurts that provided a 19-8 cushion after one and then that third run extend more than two minutes into the second quarter and string it out to 15 unanswered Cardinals points, was encapsulated by the final possession.
Benton missed a 3-points shot with about four seconds to go, but got the rebound. A quick attempt at a follow shot was partially-blocked by 6’7” CHS junior backup center Jonathan Burk, but the redirection took the ball right to the hands of a leaping Thuston to the right of the rim. In mid-air, he caught the ball and twisted to bank the ball off the window as the buzzer sounded. In the third shot of the possession went and in to the locker room went the south St. Joseph team with a 36-16 lead.
“Benton came out and scored it early. They shot it well,” Cool acknowledged. However, he later also did not fully absolve his own team’s complicity in Benton’s scoring success.
“The first half, I thought we could have been sharper defensively,” he stated.
The second half went much better for the visiting Hornets, although some of that was due to an understandable lessening of intensity by the Cardinals and more-liberal use of their reserves down the stretch in the last period.
Without key cog Snyder, Chillicothe’s offense had some kinks to work out. Benton didn’t make that any easier, applying good out-court ball pressure.
“Benton guarded the heck out of us,” saluted the CHS coach.
Although Benton again outscored CHS 18-12 in the third period to lead by 28, Chillicothe generally kept the “running clock” out of the equation.
“I thought in the second half our guys made some adjustments and moved the ball a little bit,” observed Cool. “… We did some things very well.”
“One thing that I’m really proud of our guys (for doing). They were down the whole game and they just kept playing. … That says a lot about a person’s character.”
Chillicothe’s boys’ next action won’t be until Friday when they host Savannah on CHS’ annual “Jam the Gym” night.
“They knocked (St. Joseph:) Lafayette off earlier in the week,” Cool noted Friday about SHS’ Savages. “… They’re playing really well. They play a very tough, athletic, 2-3 zone that makes things very difficult for you.”