Senior power forward Walker Graves scores career-high 22 points – 16 in second half – le lead 69-39 romp that boost team to 8-1 record, best since 1998-99
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
TRENTON, Mo. — Several Chillicothe High School basketball Hornets were on hand to observe their female counterparts shred Columbia: Hickman early Thursday night and continue shooting with stunning accuracy all night as the Lady Hornets won easily.
They must have thought, “Hey, that looks like a great way to play. Let’s do that tomorrow.”
When the Hornets’ next chance rolled around 24 hours later at North Central Missouri College’s Ketcham Community Center, they followed through on that urge behind a career-high scoring night by their 6’3’, 280-pounds senior power forward Walker Graves.
One evening after CHS’ girls bolted to a 13-2 lead and sailed on to victory with 74 percent field-goal shooting, the Hornets swamped Lexington’s Minutemen 14-2 in the first five minutes and were in command from then on in what, with 65 percent shooting from 2-point distance, concluded as a 69-39 triumph in their lone appearance in the 13th-annual “High School Holiday Hoops” event.
“This is a good way for us to go into break,” Tim Cool, Hornets head coach, commented in a post-game broadcast interview. “… We’ll come back (to practice) Tuesday to get ready for the LeBlond tournament.”
The CHS runaway, highlighted by Graves’ 22 points – 16 in the last half, was the Hornets’ first “Holiday Hoops” triumph since 2011 when they slipped past Odessa. Since then, they’d been snowed out in 2012, lost to Kirksville each of the next two years, and then fallen to larger-school Des Moines, Iowa: North each of the past Decembers.
It also left them possessing a near-perfect 8-1 record entering next week’s Bishop LeBlond Holiday Classic tournament at St. Joseph.
The last time CHS’ boys stood 8-1 or better entering their 10th outing was 1998-99 when they began the season with eight wins in a row before losing in the championship semifinals of their division in the Bank Midwest-William Jewell Classic.
That Hornets squad also lost its final-round game in the tourney at Liberty, so this year’s club can exceed the ’98-’99 team’s 10-games mark if it can top the Guardians of Kansas City’s St. Michael the Archangel High in next Thursday’s 11:30 a.m. opening-round game at Bishop LeBlond.
St. Michael the Archangel is a new regional school formed by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, having begun operations this school year. It essentially replaced the diocese’s Archbishop O’Hara High School.
Using tough defense and efficient ball movement to create a plethora of high-percentage, short-range shots, Chillicothe’s boys never led by single digits after seizing a 12-2 advantage on Konner Sewell’s head-faking, fast-break layup at the 3:33 mark of the first quarter after Graves’ pass deflection on the other end.
By the time the second period was three minutes old, the Hornets had stretched their margin to 20 points when Graves’ short drive from the right edge of the paint off Westley Brandsgaard’s perfectly-timed pass created a 28-8 spread.
Two Adler Marshall free throws made it 30-8 50 seconds later and his left-side lay-in conversion of Jack Willard’s lead lob pass left CHS owning a 32-10 margin 3:52 before halftime.
At that point, the game looked destined to be an all-out rout, but Lexington managed to turn the tide for the rest of the first half and early in the second before Chillicothe resumed its onslaught.
LHS’ Minutemen (4-5) suddenly blanked the Hornets the last 3:50 of the first half and nearly the first minute of the third period and, scoring nine unanswered points, actually threatened to make a game of it.
However, after having possession at 32-19 with a chance to perhaps get within 10 with most of the second half yet to come, the Minutemen could not take that psychologically-significant step and the Hornets hit the afterburners.
Their less-comfortable lead serving as a spur, the larger-school and physically-larger Chillicothe boys scored the next six points – four on Graves second-chance tallies and two on Brandsgaard’s deuce from the right low post in less than 60 seconds and, just like that, they had Lexington doubled up again, now at 38-19.
From there, the Minutement never were closer than 16 down and, when CHS closed the third frame on a 7-0 spurt – via Peyton Forck’s steal and breakaway layup, Sewell’s rim-rattling, glass-kissing trey from the top of the key, and C.J. Pfaff’s two free throws after another CHS offensive rebound, the gap was a then-game-high 23 points at the end of the third stanza.
Graves’ three-points play off sophomore Pfaff’s baseline in-bounds pass with 3:27 remaining put Chillicothe on the cusp of a 30-points lead and use of “running-clock” procedures. However, Lexington staved that off for a couple of minutes until Forck took Isaiah Boon’s pass to the left block up for a basket and 69-39 lead with 1:01 left.
Statistically, Graves’ 22 tallies involved near-perfect shooting in all facets. He hit seven of eight 2-point shots, a trey in only two attempts, and was a dead-eye 5-of-5 at the charity stripe.
“Walker controlled the basket for us, especially offensively,” Cool lauded. “We were able to throw it in there (to him in the low post) and he offensive rebounded pretty well, too, so he was able to get some baskets that way.”
Joining Graves, whose best-ever scoring night bumped his season average up 1.5 points to 11.7, in twin numerals were fellow starting forward Adler Marshall with 12 points – 10 before intermission – and backup post player Jonathan Burk with 10. The other reserve CHS “big,” emerging junior Peyton Forck, almost made it a frontcourt flush for the Hornets, netting eight.
“Throwing it in there is really what we’re all about, offensively,” Cool said of his belief in inside scoring and the threat of it.
Reflecting CHS’ dominance around the rim, it unofficially had a 10-0 advantage in second-chance points, 30-19 margin in rebounds, and 12-6 lead in offensive caroms snagged.
Helping lead the care and feeding of the Hornets’ “bigs” was senior point guard Jack Willard with five assists. By C-T tracking, CHS impressively earned 20 assists with 10 of the 11 players in uniform earning “dimes.” Six of the 10 had multiple helpers.
“Our guys are playing well, playing hard, playing together,” elucidated their head coach. “I really think that shows with the way we move the ball and all those assists – we’re making the effort to get great shots.”
In addition to his on-court orchestration of the CHS offense, Willard was cited by Cool for very good defensive work, which included a team-high four steals.
Lexington's scoring was led by Gavin Schneader's 14 points.