Repeat 48-18 win over St. Joseph: Bishop LeBlond is CHS hoops girls’ fifth-straight. Triumph in Midland Empire Conference 2017-18 opener moves Lady Hornets to 7-4 overall heading into Kearney tournament Monday
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — Given the higher volume of points scored, having two teams play twice in a season and finish with the identical final score and outcome is a rarity in basketball, compared to something like baseball or soccer.
However, Friday’ rematch between the Chillicothe High School basketball Lady Hornets and St. Joseph: Bishop LeBlond Lady Golden Eagles became one of those once-in-a-blue-moon occasions.
Just as they had at Savannah on Nov. 27 to gain their first win of the 2017-18 season, CHS’ girls sailed past Bishop LeBlond 48-18 at the CHS gym Friday to capture their first Midland Empire Conference victory.
“We got everybody plenty of playing time, but yet we focused on some things we’ve got to do better,” Darren Smith, CHS head coach, summarized his 7-4 club’s fifth-consecutive triumph.
“We tried to look at some different things. … Some of the time it was pretty good and some of the time it wasn’t.”
Chillicothe will take its winning streak into the coming week’s “Bulldog Classic” tournament at Kearney, one of four tournament titles last year’s Lady Hornets captured.
This year’s mostly-new squad will open against the team which lost last year’s championship game to CHS, the host Kearney Lady Bulldogs. That game will be Monday at 6:30 p.m..
According to Smith, Kearney still has its tall center from a year ago, a couple of other good shooters, and a relative of early 1980s CHS Hornet Stuart Frizzell who missed last year with a knee injury.
“It’s a game that’s going to be similar to the team we played in Hickman,” the Lady Hornets coach says of the Lady Bulldogs, “so we’ve seen that.
“That’s what was so good about that Hickman game was I knew it would be a similar game to what Kearney will throw at us. We’ve seen how to defend a big girl.”
While acknowledging Monday’s game will be a challenge, given facing the foe on its home court, Smith feels confident about his team’s ability to be competitive.
“I think we’re coming together pretty well,” he stated. “… I like where we’re at right now.”
Friday’s Chillicothe home romp figured to be one-sided as Bishop LeBlond, the MEC’s smallest school in enrollment, struggles both with number of available players and talent.
In the late November clash, the Lady Hornets tallied the first eight points en route to the eventual 48-18 triumph.
Meeting No. 2 saw Chillicothe again score first, but the Lady Golden Eagles quickly answer with a tying inside shot by promising tall sophomore Juliann Smith on their first possession.
The hosts replied with a left-side 3-pointer by senior point guard Harlie Jones off classmate Liberty Cox’s kick-out pass and Chillicothe was off to the races.
By the time Bishop LeBlond scored again, more than nine minutes of playing time had passed, the game was into its second quarter, and the Lady Hornets were ahead 21-2.
Following the early triple by the 5’5” Jones, who had her finest all-around varsity game ever with five points, a team-high eight rebounds unofficially, and a team-lead-sharing three assists, starting wing player Hunter Keithley and junior reserve forward Maggie Pfaff led the long CHS surge.
Following deuces by Cox and Kennedie Kieffer, Keithley converted a great dishoff from Kieffer for a right-side lay-in.
Pfaff capitalized on a CHS steal with its press to get a layup, after which Keithley made a defensive-end steal in the key and took it the other way for a layup. After Keithley converted one of two free throws, Pfaff closed the first-quarter blitz with another layup off a teammate’s press swipe and, a short time later, a free throw that made it 19-2 after one.
“She’s got a nose for the ball,” Smith said afterwards of the slippery, but ailment-prone Pfaff. “The ball just seems to find her.”
In the opening half-minute of quarter No. 2, more backups got into the act as Laney Gaston slipped the ball into the paint to Maddi Graham for a 13-footer that made it 19 CHS points without interruption.
The lengthy blizzard of Chillicothe tallies finally ended with a Smith free throw and then with her rim-protecting rejection and end-to-end driving deuce.
However, that was only a blip on the radar as, soon after that, Chillicothe embarked on another lengthy voyage of dominance, outscoring BLHS 15-1 in a span of 6:05 to assume a 38-7 lead.
Although the fourth quarter began with “running-clock” rules as CHS lead 42-9, the Lady Golden Eagles managed to bring their deficit under 30 three times to return to standard timekeeping. The contest’s last field goal was a right-block bank shot by Lady Hornets freshman post player Brooke Horton, who made her varsity debut and, off Gaston’s second assist, set the final score at the same 48-18 spread as the teams’ first contest.
Smith noted that it was advantageous to get the promising freshman into her first game because, under state association rules, a player’s number of quarters of eligibility in a basketball season is based on the number of games/quarters played by the highest-level (varsity, junior-varsity, or freshman) team for which she sees action.
Whereas the freshman team will end up with perhaps 10-15 games and the junior-varsity around that same number, the varsity squad will play about 25 or more, thus giving any player who gets into a varsity game at least 100 total quarters in which they can participate at any of the three levels.
Thus, Horton – as classmate Maya Snyder did early in the season when she got into one game – can be utilized extensively on both the junior-varsity and freshman levels (within the confines of being in no more than six quarters a night), even if neither is again utilized on varsity.
“This enables her to add another 16, 17, 18 quarters to what we can get her in this year,” explained Smith.
Statistically Friday, the most-eye-popping number was the Lady Hornets’ second-straight game of having at least 40 rebounds. Their unofficially 40 snares included not only Jones’ unexpected eight, but seven by Cox and six each by Graham and Kieffer.
Also notable was their unofficial 16 assists on 21 baskets. Keithley and Kieffer matched Jones’ three “dimes” and at least eight Lady Hornets had helpers.
Scoring-wise, Keithley’s 14 points led the way with Kieffer providing 11. BLHS was paced by Smith’s 12.