Sophomore's three-points play in last 20 seconds, Jones' four treys, 16 points help CHS move to 11-5 and into Saturday's Cameron Invitational championship contest
CAMERON, Mo. — Having frittered away a 9-points lead in the final 3-plus minutes, the Chillicothe High School basketball Lady Hornets looked ready to fall after Maryville Lady Spoofhounds freshman star Serena Sundell hit two free throws to tie Wednesday’s championship-semifinal game in the Cameron Invitational Tournament at 49-all with 20 seconds remaining.
However, a great lead pass by Maddi Graham broke Maryville’s full-court press and set up Hunter Keithley with a chance to drive to the basket, where she hit a tough, off-balance, go-ahead shot from about five feet while being fouled with 11 seconds to go.
Keithley completed the three-points play and, when – with Sundell blanketed outside the 3-point arc, a Maryville teammate lost track of the need for a “3” and drove toward the hoop before launching an off-target 9-footer – Chillicothe had saved itself with a 52-49 triumph.
The victory, which featured a career-best 16-points, 4-treys performance by senior guard Harlie Jones, means the CHS girls (11-5) will have a chance to win the Cameron tourney for a fourth year in a row early Saturday afternoon, facing top-seeded Savannah. Tipoff time will be at around 1:30 p.m.
Savannah pulled away from Lawson in its semifinal Wednesday, prevailing 57-28.
“If they shoot it the way they did against us the first time,” Darren Smith, Chillicothe head coach, said of the Lady Savages’ performance in a 63-52 victory over his club in the early-season Savannah Invitational, “it will be difficult for us. They like to get the ball up and down the court. They live on pushing that tempo. Tempo, tempo, tempo.
“… We have to slow them down a little bit, make them play half-court defense, make them do things they don’t want to do.”
Depending on the outcome of their game Thursday night, Chillicothe’s boys will play either right after or right before the girls on Saturday. The Hornets will duel Lawson in their division’s championship semifinals Thursday at about 8:30 p.m.
After a see-saw first half that featured Sundell’s perfect shooting and 18 points, Wednesday’s Chillicothe-Maryville battle had seemed to turn the Lady Hornets’ way when consecutive 3-pointers by Keithley and Jones broke a 30-30 deadlock in the middle of the third quarter.
“She was huge in the win,” Smith said of his lefthanded point guard, who knocked down two treys in each half.
“…She took shots that were available, but didn't force things. They went box-and-1 on Hunter and (Jones) had open looks. She took advantage of that.”
Maryville (9-9) soon rallied to within a point and then, after a Jordan Hibner triple, Jones’ 18-footer from the key off a long offensive rebound, and Kennedie Kieffer’s short shot on a pick-and-roll play gave CHS a 43-35 lead, back to within three, but never led again after Jones’ left-wing trey that opened the second-half scoring erased MHS’ 26-25 intermission edge.
Ahead 43=40 with just under 5-1/2 minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Lady Hornets strung together another Jones long-range deuce and consecutive Kieffer putbacks to take the game’s largest lead – nine points – with 3:48 on the clock.
At that point, Chillicothe began to try to run clock when it had possession and stalled offensively, opening the door for the Lady Spoofhounds to make a run.
A poorly-defended in-bounds play became a Maryville trey with 2:05 to go and, after a CHS turnover, a point-blank shot cut the gap to four with 1:40 left.
It stayed there for almost a minute before another Chillicothe mistake sent Sundell back to the foul line, where she hit twice more, making it a 2-points game.
“It just felt like we tightened up really bad right there,” Smith said of his players’ reaction to trying to preserve the shrinking lead.
A missed Chillicothe free throw with 35 seconds remaining went out of bounds off Maryville, allowing CHS to drain another 15 seconds before the Lady ’Hounds knocked the ball away and again out of bounds.
On the throw-in, Keithley pushed Sundell, who was trying to deny her the ball, and was called for a foul. The MHS standout was awarded two free throws and sank them both, leaving her 10 for 10 at the line on the night and knotting the score at 49 with 20 ticks left.
Graham in-bounded the ball to Hibner, then received it back under the MHS basket. Hoping to defer to Keithley, CHS’ most-creative offensive performer, Graham found her too closely guarded to accept a pass. Instead, Keithley set a momentary screen on the player guarding the dribbling Graham, then turned upcourt ahead of the player assigned to her.
Graham alertly looped a pass over the two MHS defenders, allowing Keithley to cross the timeline on the dribble and only a couple of MHS players situated on the Chillicothe offensive end.
Taking the ball straight to the paint, Keithley was approached by one, but, pulling up her dribble, veered past her as she began a shot while their legs collided. As a whistle blew for a Maryville foul, the Lady Hornets sophomore had the body control to loft the ball toward the rim. On target, it dropped through the net for a go-ahead deuce. When she completed the basket-and-1 sequence, Maryville had only one realistic chance and ended up unable to execute that as Chillicothe escaped.
Statistically in the game, Jones’ career highs in points and 3-pointers were buttressed by Keithley’s 14 tallies, 11 by Kieffer, and nine from Hibner.
Even though blanked from the field in the second half, the 5’11” Sundell still finished with 24 points.