CHS boys decimate shorthanded Hamilton 41-10 in second half Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017. Ford drove Hamilton girls to 51-46 victory keyed by 16-4 second-half surge

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — Just as a season ago, the varsity basketball teams of Chillicothe High School and Hamilton’s Penney High split their “Hornets vs. Hornets” clashes. This time, though, the results were flipped.
Dominated in the second half at Hamilton last January in a 16-points loss, CHS’ boys on Tuesday night evolved a tight 24-20 game at halftime into a 65-30 home-court blowout of an opponent missing its would-be top player, due to injury.
The Chillicothe triumph in the nightcap followed the Hamilton girls’ 51-46 victory over a graduation-shredded CHS club. Last year, senior-laden Chillicothe had prevailed by more than 40 points.
Tuesday’s game in the CHS gymnasium were the 2017-18 season openers for all four teams.
Chillicothe moves on, following the Thanksgiving holiday, to participate in next week’s Savannah Invitational Tournament.
The girls will take on St. Joseph: Bishop LeBlond in their first Pool 1 game in the 6-teams event Monday at 4 p.m. The boys will play Tuesday at 4 p.m. against Pool 2 foe St. Joseph: Benton.
Both CHS teams will have their second “pool” outing next Thursday – the girls against Savannah and boys against Bishop LeBlond – and then see who and when they play in the final round.
Other schools in the tourney include Platte County (boys only), Kansas City: Staley (girls only),  St. Joseph: Central junior-varsity girls, Maryville, and the hosts.
In Tuesday’s season debuts, CHS boys and girls exhibited what had projected to be their early-season identities – the boys being a relatively-experienced, well-rounded squad that can adapt and enhance its performance as a game goes along, and the girls being prone to spurts of both solid and erratic play, due to their talent and general inexperience.
Undeniably aided by the absence of Hamilton senior All-State player LaTroy Harper, who buried them under a 37-points blizzard last season, Chillicothe counteracted the things its guest had found success with in the first two quarters to outscore Hamilton 41-10 in the last two.
Tightening its on-ball pressure a bit and sticking closer to weaving cutters away from the ball coming out of the mid-game break, Chillicothe scored seven of the first eight points of the third quarter, then went on a 28-4 blitz over a 9:10 stretch of the third and fourth periods to take full command of the proceedings.
That lengthy surge, which saw a half-dozen Chillicothe players score, featured one stretch in which seven consecutive CHS baskets were created off assists by five separate passers. For the game, Chillicothe had 17 total assists from eight players.
At game’s end, sophomore wing forward Westley Brandsgaard had tallied a CHS-high 15 points, senior post man Walker Graves 12 to go with five rebounds and three helpers, and senior reserve guard Konner Sewell 10, supplemented with four rebounds and an assist. Three other Hornets scored seven or more markers with sophomore C.J. Pfaff, in his starting debut, smoothly blending nine points, a team-best five assists, and a couple of boards.
With Harper out of commission for perhaps another week or so, according to Hamilton head coach Rick Ross, junior forward Cale Whitt had a big first half for the visitors. The 6’3” Penney player had 14 of his side’s 20 points prior to intermission, including 4-of-4 free-throw work. However, with Brandsgaard taking on the task of tracking Whitt coming out of the locker room, he added only one more tally the rest of the way, still matching Brandsgaard as the game’s top scorer with 15 points.
“I thought Wes just did a great job of guarding him in the second half,” saluted Tim Cool, CHS head coach.
Statistically, in addition to its nice scoring and passing balance, CHS had a handful of players snare at least four rebounds, topped by point guard Jack Willard’s six. Also, of the six Chillicothe shooters who launched from beyond the 3-points arc, four each hit exactly half of their attempts. As a squad, CHS finished six of 15 from “downtown,” according to team statisticians.
Tuesday’s girls’ game was not as sharply divided by halves.
Although Chillicothe hamstrung itself with early foul trouble for two of its top returning players, very poor defensive rebounding, and poor ball security in the opening half, a closing 7-2 spurt in the last three minutes helped offset an 8-0 Hamilton spurt over a 75-seconds segment of the second period.
As a result, Chillicothe came out of halftime facing only a 22-20 deficit, even though it had only sparingly had 6’ junior center Kennedie Kieffer and 5’10” sophomore wing Hunter Keithley on the floor in the first 16 minutes.
“We got in foul trouble and messed up my ‘bigs’ rotation,” commented Darren Smith, CHS head coach.
With those two back in action to begin the third frame and contributing a deuce and trey between them in the first three minutes, Chillicothe re-took the lead for the first time since early in the second stanza at 25-24.
A trade of baskets – CHS’ by senior reserve Maddi Graham, who seemed to play well in extended use, the hosts were up by one once more. It would be their last lead.
A steal and driving layup by Hamilton’s top player – sophomore point guard Nora Ford – moved the visitors back ahead at 28-27 and began a 16-4 stretch which extended nearly four minutes into the fourth quarter.
The push was capped by a final-frame string of 10 unanswered Hamilton points that took its lead from 32-31 to 42-31. Ford popped home a pair of treys from behind screens to the left of the key in that ultimately-decisive span with Graycen Prothero and Tegan Bruce chipping in a bucket apiece.
Behind by 11 past the mid-point of the last segment, Chillicothe tried to reproduce its late-first-half success, but could not quite get it done.
“I just felt like we were one possession or two possessions away all night long, as far as momentum,” Smith stated in a post-game broadcast interview.
A Jordan Hibner triple and Keithley lane jumper – both set up by Harlie Jones passes – and a pair of Keithley free throws had the gap down to 43-38 with 1:33 remaining. Taking advantage of mixed Hamilton luck at the foul line in three bonus opportunities, two more Keithley charity tosses at the 1:06 mark pared the margin to four and her cutting layup with 52 ticks still on the clock got CHS within one possession at 45-42.
The home team never got the ball with a chance to tie with a basket, however. After a turnover when it was behind by five, its last-gasp stab at a miracle comeback saw sophomore reserve guard Magy Thomas coolly sink two free throws with seven seconds to go to narrow the deficit to three again.
Hamilton succeeded in getting the ball put in play, however, and Ford hit two free throws with five ticks left to ice her team’s triumph.
Statistically in the girls’ game, Ford’s 24 points – including four treys and 6-of-8 foul shooting – easily led all scorers. She divided her production evenly between the halves. Bruce tacked on nine points and G. Prothero. a classmate of Ford’s, eight.
Chillicothe was paced by nine points apiece by sophomores Hibner and Keithley and eight by Kieffer. Eight of the nine CHS players available scored. While she didn’t score, Jones did lead the club with five assists, unofficially, one more than Liberty Cox.
Unofficially, Hamilton out-rebounded Chillicothe 39-29, including a whopping 19 offensive snags. It also had four fewer turnovers than CHS’ 19.
Exacerbating the effect of Keithley’s and Kieffer’s early foul woes – Kieffer drew her second one after only 2:12 and Keithley’s second came almost two minutes before the end of the opening stanza – was the non-availability of junior reserve forward Maggie Pfaff. She was on the bench with her teammates, but in street clothes with her right arm in a sling to largely immobilize it.
Smith told the C-T after the game that lack of sensation and strength in the arm and right shoulder is believed by doctors to be related to a rare heart abnormality which arose late last season. The situation, which affected Pfaff’s stamina initially, was addressed with a procedure during the summer and was thought to have been resolved, Pfaff had told the C-T previously, but now has cropped up again with different effect, leaving her availability in the near and long term uncertain. Pfaff stated after the game she hopes to be back to playing soon, if the immobilizing of the arm for a time helps get the feeling back in it.
Pfaff’s issue was a surprise, given that she’d participated – seemingly without problem – in both intrasquad and interscholastic scrimmages last week.