Rally from 11 back in fourth quarter to top host St. Joseph: Lafayette 57-49 in overtime, improve to 6-0 in league play. Title is 21-1 CHS girls' first in loop since 1996-97 season.
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — Their backs pushed smack against the wall by excellent St. Joseph: Lafayette passing and short-range shooting, the Chillicothe High School Lady Hornets responded like champions and, for the first time in Midland Empire Conference play since 1996-97, became one Tuesday night in gutsy fashion.
Behind 43-32 with 6:15 left in regulation time after a 13-2 Lady Irish surge late in the third quarter and early in the fourth, Chillicothe initiated a full-court press which helped quicken the tempo a bit and led to an 11-0 Lady Hornets spurt that tied the game with just over two minutes to go and eventually led to a 57-49 triumph.
The victory clinches for CHS (21-1, 6-0 MEC) at worst a share of this season’s MEC crown. It can secure it outright at home next Tuesday against 5-18 Cameron, which is winless in league play.
The win – the Lady Hornets’ second-straight overtime “W” on Lafayette’s floor – also should cinch for Chillicothe the top seeding for the Class 4 district tournament upcoming week after next. Lafayette and fellow St. Joseph school Benton now shape up to be the Nos. 2 and 3 seeds, meaning they likely will square off against each other in the semifinals, while CHS meets one of three lower-caliber teams in the 6-schools field – probably Savannah.
Chillicothe and Lafayette’s girls each entered Tuesday night’s game with unblemished MEC records, but the Lady Hornets had played one more time and LHS still had a game against a quality opponent – Smithville – to play, so CHS had a bit of wiggle room, should it lose.
However, it didn’t want to travel that path and displayed the grit it needed to, fittingly in this time of postseason wrestling, come off the mat and prevail.
The visitors’ rally got a jump-start with 6:10 left in the fourth quarter when Whitney Clampitt gathered in Katelyn Parkey’s in-bounds pass from the baseline and, from mid-lane about five feet from the hoop, hit a shot while being fouled. In a foreshadowing of a key component of the Chillicothe comeback, she made the free throw, carving more than 25 percent off the deficit in one fell swoop.
About 40 seconds later, after a fruitless LHS possession, Hannah Jones drove to the left baseline and the bucket from the left wing to score and make it a 2-possessions game.
Surprisingly, the rest of the CHS push to overtime would occur without scoring from the floor.
Han. Jones rebounded her own miss and was fouled as she tried to go back up, converting both free throws at the 4:29 mark. A minute later, Clampitt collected Han. Jones’ perimeter miss and was fouled. She duplictaed her teammate’s marksmanship at the stripe and Chillicothe had the gap down to two.
After Lafayette ran off extensive time, only to end up turning the ball over, Clampitt again drew a foul – Lafayette’s seventh of the half, meaning she would go back to the line. Her first try wasn’t dead on, but got a friendly bounce off the right edge of the ring and fell through after kissing the glass. A swish on the second left the teams level with 2:04 on the clock.
Lafayette then threw the ball out of bounds against the press and, with nearly two minutes to go, CHS coach Darren Smith tried to play for a last shot.
After getting the clock under a minute, an inadvertant collision outcourt sent Clampitt back to the charity stripe, from where she was eight of nine to that moment. With a chance to give her side the lead with 52 ticks left, she didn’t get the favorable bounce on her off-line first try this time, however, and the Lady Irish had the ball back with a chance to regain the lead and perhaps win.
After bringing the clock below 10 seconds, though, the hosts couldn’t find the shooter or shot they wanted. Instead, a rushed shot from about 14 feet missed and CHS rebounded and called timeout with just under four seconds left. However, after making plans, the Lady Hornets didn’t manage to get a shot away in time, sending the contest to OT.
About 90 seconds into the extra four minutes, LHS star center Ashlyn Dotson ended her team’s 7-plus minutes field-goal famine with an inside shot.
The Lady Hornets answered with Parkey hitting a turnaround from the left low post off Clampitt’s pass. It then took the lead when Clampitt anticipated a Lady Irish pass, stole it, and dribbled unfettered to the other end for a layup that gave her club its first lead, 47-45, since the last two minutes of the first half.
Dotson countered 35 seconds later, hitting a tough, lefthanded turnaround from 13 feet away on the left baseline.
As the 1-minute mark of overtime approached, Chillicothe senior point guard Karson Keithley drove and banked in a shot to give the guests the lead for good.
After Lafayette failed to score, K. Keithley was grabbed and pulled to the floor as she moved upcourt on the dribble, drawing a whistle for a foul. After two of the officials conferred, they concurred that the infraction was worthy of a pivotal intentional-foul ruling, meaning not only would the CHS player get two free throw tries, but the Lady Hornets would get possession back after the second.
With 41 seconds to play, she made both attempts for a 2-possessions lead and Chillicothe still had the ball. That prompted another LHS foul four seconds later which K. Keithley turned into another point and a 52-47 lead.
Then, with Lafayette desperate to find a quick shot, Clampitt intercepted another pass and drew a quick foul. Hitting her last two attempts of the night with 23 seconds remaining, it was a 3-possessions game and Chillicothe’s victory – improbable as it seemed early in the fourth quarter – was assured.
The game had figured to be evenly played, given the teams’ recent history against each other and that came to pass.
Each team had leads in the first quarter, although Chillicothe only for 24 seconds after Clampitt’s left-corner trey made it 11-9, before Lafayette held a 14-11 advantage at its conclusion.
The Lady Hornets fell further behind early in quarter No. 2, Tray Byrd’s driving bank shot from right of the paint making it 20-13 at the 5:12 mark, before temporarily righting the ship.
On the bench with two fouls since the game’s first 75 seconds, CHS senior center Katelyn Parkey was returned to the floor and fired in two treys around a Clampitt steal and layup. The 8-0 spurt inched the Lady Hornets in front for the second time at 21-20 1:43 before halftime, but Jada Johnson’s triple restored the LHS advantage before Clampitt’s fast-break layup left the teams dead-even at 23 apiece at intermission.
Chillicothe wouldn’t lead again until overtime, but had the advantage when it counted most.
Statistically, Clampitt’s 21 points led CHS with Han. Jones quietly netting 16. Jones’ output also included free-throw accuracy as she hit all five she tried. Parkey ended up with 10.
Clampitt unofficially also shared the team lead in assists with four, matching K. Keithley’s total. Han. Jones had a team-best seven rebounds, by C-T count, with Maggie Leatherman snaring six.
As a team, Chillicothe finished a scorching, but critical, 19 of 23 (83 percent) at the charity stripe. Lafayette had a similarly-high rate of success – 80 percent – but had only five total attempts. Outscoring their host by 15 at the line proved to be the tipping point of the Lady Hornets’ conquest.
The smooth, 6’2” Dotson, bound to NCAA Division I Alabama A&M next school year, led all scorers with 23 points. That includes all six the Lady Irish had in overtime and their last eight overall.
Another senior, Maddie Book had 11, but the rest of the squad produced only 15 total.
Unofficially, Chillicothe was more surehanded with the ball, committing only six turnovers while helping force 13.
Lafayette, on the other hand, repeatedly exploited Chillicothe’s focus on providing “help” defense on Dotson to create open shots that, for 3-plus quarters, others often hit. The Lady Irish also were judicious with their attempts to get the ball to their star in the low post, repeatedly setting her up for short shots she made. By night’s end, LHS unofficially had score 20 field goals and 15 of them were set up by assists.