Close 54-43 triumph over Marvyille in Savannah tourney finale with 8-0 push after staking out 22-9 lead in first 15 minutes. Improve to 2-2 on new season.
SAVANNAH, Mo. — Chillicothe High School’s young and laregly-nexperienced girls’ basketball Lady Hornets emerged from this week’s 89th-annual Savannah Invitational Tournament with third-place laurels, a 2-2 season record, and a reasonably-good foundation on which to try to construct a solid transitional season.
With no returning starters or players who played extensive, significant minutes as the Lady Hornets were winning district championships the past three years, coach Darren Smith’s 2017-18 team has plenty of growing pains to experience early this winter, yet already is showing signs of making strides toward maturity.
Friday night, less than 24 hours after unsuccessfully battling the host team for the right to play for the tournament championship, the CHS girls regrouped and grinded their way to a 54-43 triumph over Maryville in a game which they easily could have had get away.
After building a sizable lead in the game’s first 8-12 minutes for the second night in a row – this time a 22-9 margin three minutes into the second quarter, the Lady Hornets saw their lead shrivel to two points early in the second half, then again dip to three with 2:15 remaining after they’d reinflated it to eight early in the fourth quarter.
Faced with the specter of letting a game they’d led nearly from the start slip away, CHS instead used good free-throw shooting and pesky defense to close the contest on an 8-0 surge.
With the game on the line in the last 135 seconds, Chillicothe made eight of 11 foul shots, giving it 11 charity points in the last quarter and featuring 6-of-6 marksmanship by sophomore Hunter Keithley in the last 2-1/2 minutes..
“That’s how you win,” Darren Smith, fourth-year CHS head coach, praised his squad.
Friday’s triumph sends Chillicothe into its next game – next Thursday at 2016-17 Class 2 state semifinalist Trenton – with a couple of wins already in the bank.
“I feel like we’re getting better. I feel like we’ve taken a big step since our first game,” the coach commented in a post-game broadcast interview. “Offfensively,we’re scoring plenty of points. We’ve just got to tighten up the defense a little bit.
“… I think we’ll be okay later this year.”
A key to the Lady Hornets’ win over Maryville was keeping lanky, talented, 5’11” Lady Spoofhounds freshman Serena Sundell in check on the offensive end.
A skilled perimeter player despite her height, Sundell had been scoring around 20 points a game through her team’s first several outings, Smith noted afterward, but was held to nine by CHS. Defending her primarily was the task of senior guard Harlie Jones and junior guard Catey Trout.
“They did an awesome job,” Smith saluted, noting there was much-better communication by everyone on defense. “… We had a hand in her face all night.”
Offensively, Chillicothe overcame a poor night of perimeter shooting with a number of transition baskets, especially as they built their early lead.
Three-consecutive fast-break layups – one by mobile, 6’ center Kennedie Kieffer and then two by Keithley – capped the team’s 22-9 start in the first 11 minutes.
“When we can get out and run, we fill lanes really nice,” Smith affirmed.
Statistically, Keithley’s 18 points led all scorers. The 10th grader also provided five assists – a CHS-high – and six rebounds, unofficially.
Kieffer, managing to avoid time-limiting foul trouble for the first time this season, finished with 14 points and, unofficially, nine boards. Another sophomore, Jordan Hibner, scored six of her 10 points in the last quarter, including a key steal at the MHS free-throw line extended and drive to the other end for a lefthanded layup.
Emma Baldwin’s 11 tallies topped Maryville with Emily Cassavaugh, a 5’9” classmate of Sundell, matching Sundell’s nine points.