Vanquish Excelsior Springs 58-27 in first-round play in Cameron Invitational Tournament Monday. Winners of eight of their last nine, CHS girls next face Maryville Wednesday night
CAMERON, Mo. — Chillicothe High School’s basketball Lady Hornets answered two Excelsior Springs free throws that began their Monday game’s scoring in the first half-minute with 10 unanswered points and cruised on to their 10th victory of the season, 58-27.
CHS’ eighth triumph in its last nine outings boosted its record to 10-5 and sends the Lady Hornets into Wednesday’s 8:30 p.m. championship semifinal against Maryville in a matchup of the Nos. 2 and 3 seeds. Maryville wobbled past Cameron 38-23 in its first-round contest Monday.
Chillicothe turned back Maryville 54-43 in a battle of then-largely-inexperienced clubs during the Savannah Invitational Tournament in early December.
“They’re a lot like we are in that, when we played them early, neither one of us was where we are right now,” Darren Smith, Chillicothe head coach, said of the next assignment after Monday’s perfunctory win. “… I anticipate they’ll put up a pretty stiff challenge.
“… We’re going to have to rebound and we’re going to have to defend. That’s what it comes down to,” expanded the coach.
Top-seeded Savannah, which creamed St. Joseph: Bishop LeBlond 73-21, will face Lawson in the other title semifinal Wednesday, preceding the CHS-MHS game. Lawson, the fifth seed, slipped by No. 4 Higginsville 55-48.
Monday’s Lady Hornets victory, as expected, by and large was cemented before halftime.
ESHS’ Lady Tigers (1-12) broke the scoring ice when senior guard Josie Rimmer netted two foul shots a half-minute after the opening tip.
After a timeout Smith took to refocus his squad, the Lady Hornets captured the lead in one swish of the net as Liberty Cox’s pass found hot-shooting sophomore guard Jordan Hibner all alone on the right wing and she rang the triple bell.
That shot was followed by a Cox deuce from just inside the foul line off Kennedie Kieffer’s pass, another Cox deuce – this time set up by Hunter Keithley, Kieffer’s putback of a Keithley miss, and a Catey Trout free throw that made it 10-2.
Ahead 13-4 after one quarter, Chillicothe hit a “lull,” in their coach’s word, and found their lead a bit smaller at 15-8 after Kiya Nuñes foul-line shot with just over 3-1⁄2 minutes to go in the half.
By the time intermission arrived, however, the CHS lead had trebled as the Lady Hornets riddled Excelsior Springs for seven baskets and 17 points in those closing minutes.
Versatile sophomore wing forward Keithley was especially devastating in the second frame, ringing up 13 of her game-high 16 points in those eight minutes.
“She’s a load right now,” Smith said of the 10th grader, who added six rebounds.
After intermission, Hibner buried another 3-pointer – this time from atop the key off a Harlie Jones setup – to extend the CHS run to 20-3 over the last 4-1⁄2 minutes of action.
Excelsior Springs responded with its best stretch of the game – a 7-0 flurry, but 15 of the next 18 points belonged to the Lady Hornets. Hibner, Keithley, and Jones added more trifectas as the CHS lead blew up to 50-23 entering the last segment.
A majority of the last quarter saw Chillicothe up by 30 points or more, accelerating the timekeeping, or the Lady Hornets – a surprisingly-potent offensive team this year, considering the talent which graduated last year and the relative inexperience of the 2017-18 team – would have reached 60 points for a second time. As it is, their scoring average climbed to 49.5 per game, less than six less than last year’s 25-3 Midland Empire Conference and district champions averaged.
Statistically Monday, in addition to Keithley’s 16, Hibner netted 11 points and Cox nine. All nine Lady Hornets in uniform scored, capped by sophomore guard Magy Thomas’ driving deuce in the final 20 seconds.
Top reserve forward Maggie Pfaff was not available for the game. In addition, senior guard Jones took a hard spill into the wall under the stage-end basket in the first half and was down for a couple of minutes before walking off under her own power. She returned to play in the second half, but told a family member Tuesday morning she felt sore, the C-T learned. She is expected to be available tonight.
Kieffer had a team-most seven rebounds and Cox five. Kieffer had five assists, as well, and Jones three.
Excelsior Springs’ scoring was led by starter Rimmer’s and backup Nuñes’ six points each.