North St. Joseph team pulls away in second half to win 74-59 in Chillicothe Tuesday, Feb. 14. CHS places four scorers in double figures, hits 22 of 26 free throws as record slips to 12-10.
CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — The Chillicothe High School basketball Hornets’ first opportunity to clinch a winning record for their 2016-17 season proved unfulfilling Tuesday night, but not unexpectedly.
Hosting defending Midland Empire Conference champion St. Joseph: Lafayette, last year’s Class 4 state runnerup, the Hornets did some things quite well to stay solidly in contention until the fourth period before falling, 72-59.
The CHS boys (12-10, 3-3 MEC) will take another stab at mathematically assuring themselves of a final record north of .500 Friday when they host Marshall in the finale of a girls’/boys’ varsity twinbill. Should they fall short then, the Hornets would have a third crack at it next Tuesday at Cameron.
Tuesday’s game against Lafayette’s talented Fighting Irish, who have had some transitional trials this season as they learn a new coach’s ways and system following Chris Neff’s departure for a Kansas City-area coaching job after last year’s trip back to state, saw Chillicothe trail by only four points after each of the first two frames. Down 16-12 after one despite eight Diego Bernard tallies for LHS, the Hornets matched the Irish point for point in a fast-paced second stanza that saw 40 points split evenly between the clubs. While Lafayette All-Stater Caleb Bennett was hit for seven points and D’Karee Gray six, the Hornets were receiving eight from Jack Willard and seven from Ben Jones keep pace.
In the third stanza, it was Walker Graves, who had missed the Hornets’ big home win last Friday with illness, producing eight markers – six of them without missing at the foul line, only to be more than offset by another seven by Bennett and 23 overall by the St. Joseph northsiders.
On the fringe of striking distance at a 59-50 deficit through three periods, Chillicothe saw its scoring pace slacken, netting only two baskets and nine total points in the last eight minutes as Lafayette eased out to the mid-teens spread.
Statistically, CHS had a couple of noticeably-good numbers.
First, as it continues to adjust to life without its injured leading scorer for the season, Cade Snyder, it placed four players in dual digits in points.
Graves led the way with 15, including perfect 8-of-8 free-throw work after entering the action at only 44 percent for the season. Junior classmate Willard, coming off a career-high 20 last Friday, was right behind with 14 markers and freshman Westley Brandsgaard was hot on Willard’s heels with 13. The frosh now has scored in twin figures in four of the last five and five of the last seven CHS contests.
Rounding out Chillicothe’s quartet of double-digits scorers was Jones with 11. However, only other Hornet reached the scoring column – Zach Trout with six.
With Willard and Brandsgaard each missing only once in at least a half-dozen chances, Chillicothe was a scorching 22 of 26 at the free-throw stripe in the game, a bit over 85 percent.
Lafayette had only three players with at least 10 points, paced by Bennett’s 21 and Bernard’s 19. Trey Washington chipped in 12 and a handful of other Irish combined for 23.