Unbeaten Hornets bested St. Joseph: Bishop LeBlond 66-55 before Lady Hornets dropped 63-52 verdict to host girls in final "pool play" games. CHS boys will face Platte County for championship at 4 p.m. Saturday

SAVANNAH, Mo. — The Chillicothe High School basketball Hornets will take another crack at ending a decade-plus drought, in terms of tournament titles, Saturday, but the Lady Hornets won’t be in a position to repeat as champions of the Savannah Invitational.
The Hornets scored within a few seconds of controlling their game’s opening tipoff and, with rebounding dominance and potent scoring by a trio of players, led from start to finish as they withstood very good long-range shooting by St. Joseph: Bishop LeBlond to prevail 66-55 Thursday in the final game of “pool” play in the 6-teams tournament.
CHS’ second victory of the tourney meant they qualified for Saturday’s approximately 4 p.m. title game against Platte County, the advancer from the opposite 3-teams pool.
Thwarted several times in the last three years when they played for tourney crowns, the Hornets (3-0) again will try to make it happen for the first time since the 2004-05 team captured its district-tourney title.
CHS’ Lady Hornets, champions at Savannah last year and winners of several regular-season and district tourneys the last few seasons, saw their opportunity to repeat in this early-season event when host Savannah shot very well and dominated the final 6-1/2 minutes to post a 63-52 conquest Thursday.
As a consequence, Savannah will be the opponent for Kansas City: Staley in Saturday’s first-place contest and Chillicothe’s girls (1-2) will go against Maryville for third place Friday at 7:30 p.m. The Lady Hornets and Maryville, which has former Lady Hornets standout Maggie Graves as an assistant coach this season while she attends Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, each won once and lost once in “pool” play in the tourney.
Chillicothe’s boys executed perfectly a planned play on the opening tipoff on their way to racking up their game’s first eight points.
Sophomore Westley Brandsgaard tipped the ball into the frontcourt where Adler Marshall collected it. On the opposite side of the floor, sophomore C.J. Pfaff headed toward the basket unnoticed by Bishop LeBlond’s players. Knowing where his teammate was going to go, Marshall spotted him and made a quick pass for the uncontested layup only four seconds in.
Before the first minute had passed, Walker Graves had converted another Marshall pass into a deuce. On the third CHS possession, Graves missed a 3-point shot, but the wiry Pfaff jumped first to lift the carom away from a Golden Eagle and then hit a follow shot. A minute later, Brandsgaard grabbed his own missed shot and netted the putback for an 8-0 Hornets lead less than 2:50 into the action.
By the end of a free-wheeling first period, Chillicothe led 20-9, a margin it expanded to as many as 14 points three times in the second stanza before another second-chance score – this time Graves following his own miss – gave the Hornets a 38-23 advantage at the half.
When Marshall set Graves up in the paint not quite a minute into the third segment, CHS had its largest lead of the evening – 17 points, but Bishop LeBlond wouldn’t rattle.
Behind the 3-point-shooting of multiple BLHS players – most notably point guard Jack Harvey, the Golden Eagles took flight. Less than five minutes later, they were back within seven at 46-39, a score that held fast for the last 2-plus minutes of quarter No. 3.
Two Pfaff free throws – again coming following an offensive rebound – began the fourth-quarter scoring and, even though BLHS four times scored to cut the gap to seven, it could not get closer.
The last of those 7-points spreads – 58-51 with about 2-1/2 minutes remaining – was undermined by a momentary lapse of self-control by a Bishop LeBlond player.
When a foul was called against BLHS as Graves tried to muscle up a shot from the right block at the 1:57 mark, the culprit apparently verbally protested the ruling and was called for a technical foul, too. The two infractions both fouled that man out and gave Chillicothe four free throws plus subsequent continued possession of the ball.
Graves hit both of his free throws and Brandsgaard one of the two for the “T” and the CHS lead once more was in twin digits, where it remained.
Statistically, senior Graves had his second-consecutive scoring/rebounding double-double. According to team statisticians, he paired 17 points with 12 boards.
Brandsgaard, despite missing two of eight free throws – his first two misfires in 15 attempts at the line this season, pumped in a game-high 27 points. He drilled five treys in eight tries as he set a new CHS-career personal high.
Although C-T statistical tracking had Pfaff with 11 rebounds, which would have meant a double-double since he tallied 15 points, team stats showed him with “only” eight.
In combining for 60 points, those three hit 21 of 36 shots  from the floor and were a composite 13 of 19 at the foul line.
For Bishop LeBlond, Harvey matched Brandsgaard’s game-pacing 27 points. He also had five triples. Sean Davis, like Graves, backed his teammate with 17 points, but Bishop LeBlond didn’t have a third contribution like Pfaff’s.
In another critical aspect, CHS unofficially had a 41-23 advantage in rebounds, including 17 offensive collections. By C-T count, the Hornets out-pointed their St. Joseph foe 12-2 in second-chance points.
Thursday’s CHS girls’ game in the tournament went south on Chillicothe in the last quarter.
After executing its best of the young season on offense to run up a 17-9 lead after one quarter, Chillicothe began faltering on the backboards and on defense.
Before five minutes of the second stanza had elapsed, Savannah (3-0) had edged in front 23-21, hitting four treys along the way. Only Jordan Hibner’s running, banked-in trey with a couple of seconds left in the first half allowed the Lady Hornets to be knotted 27-27 at intermission.
CHS scored first in the third quarter on Hunter Keithley’s inside shot, then answered a string of nine Savannah points in a row with eight of their own to retake the upper hand. Two Keithley 3-balls bookended the CHS counter-surge which gave it what proved to be its last lead – 37-36 – with three minutes left in the third quarter.
A Liz Everly lay-in from the left side after a collision sent a Lady Hornet to the floor handed the lead back to the hosts with 2:47 to go in the third stanza.
Down 42-39 starting the fourth and final quarter, Chillicothe hinted fans could expect a back-and-forth battle to the final horn when senior guard Harlie Jones hit a pull-up jumper from the foul line after coming around a high screen in the second minute of the closing segment.
A 42-41 game at that moment, the contest suddenly turned decisively the way of the more-active and aggressive Lady Savages.
The home team reeled off 12 consecutive tallies in just under three minutes, blowing a hole in the game. Although CHS outscored it 10-9 over the last 3:30, Savannah had no trouble closing out the victory.
Statistically, while Keithley netted a career-best 20 points unofficially, no other Lady Hornet reached double digits. After hitting three treys before halftime, it is believed Hibner did not even have a shot attempt after it.
Meanwhile, Grace Stites led four Savannah scorers with twin figures with 20 points. Liz Everly added 15 and Gabby Hummer and Briley Jeter 10 apiece as SHS shot very well in the second half.