CHS holds Lawson scoreless last 7:40 of first half en route to 38-23 victory Thursday in Cameron tournament championship semifinal. Willard's four treys key attack as CHS earns rematch with Maryville

CAMERON, Mo. — The odds were stacked pretty high against the Chillicothe High School basketball Hornets surpassing their defensive parsimony of their Jan. 2 meeting with the Lawson Cardinals when the teams squared off again Thursday night in the championship semifinals of the Cameron Invitational Tournament.
However, as their excellent 2017-18 season has shown to date, it’s not wise to bet against the Hornets, even at long odds.
After throttling Lawson on nine first-half points at home in the New Year’s Day-after win, coach Tim Cool’s CHS squad were more miserly the second time around, blanking the Cardinals for the last 7:45 of the first half to go to the locker room at mid-game ahead 20-7.
With that foundation to build upon, second-seeded Chillicothe moved into Saturday’s 3 p.m. championship game against No. 1 seed Maryville with an eventual 38-23 triumph which, in a season of tremendous defensive tenacity by the Hornets, established a new high-water mark for low points-total allowed. CHS previously had held Lawson to 27 in the 48-27 January victory after throttling Trenton on 26 in December.
Explained Cool about his club’s repeat defensive demonstration, “Everybody played well together. That’s really a good thing to see, especially defensively.
“I just thought we guarded extremely well. To give up seven points in the first half really puts us in a great spot.”
Chillicothe earned a relatively-quick chance to avenge its 53-44 Jan. 9 home loss to Maryville, one of CHS’ only two losses in 18 starts this season.
Maryville, seemingly casual all night against a St. Joseph: Bishop LeBlond squad that smelled an upset opportunity, needed a buzzer-beating, 16-foot bank shot from junior guard Eli Dowis to avoid overtime Thursday, winning 45-43.
“It’s going to be fun,” Cool said of Saturday, “because our girls are playing for first and our boys are playing for first and that’s just exactly where we want to be – playing for championships.”
Thanks to its defense, once Chillicothe’s boys had the lead Thursday, they had control.
After neither club scored in the first two minutes, Lawson drew first blood with a pair of free throws at the 5:33 mark of the first stanza.
The Hornets countered with six unanswered points in a 70-seconds burst, jumping in front on the first of Jack Willard’s two opening-segment treys, and following that with Adler Marshall’s transition deuce off Willard’s pass and Walker Graves’ free throw.
Up 10-5 after one period, Chillicothe saw Lawson make it a 1-possession game 25 seconds into the second frame on Zach Miller’s turnaround shot in the paint. However, those would be the Cardinals’ only two tallies of the period and they’d spend the entire final half down double digits as Chillicothe gradually posted the last 10 points of the opening half.
Willard, saddled with foul trouble at times, dropped in his third trifecta of the game with 2:43 left in the third period, giving CHS a a 15-points lead, its largest of the game to that point. Less than 40 seconds later, the senior point guard struck again to make it a 16-points gap, 31-15 with two minutes to go in the third. That would be the widest spread of the night.
What likely was the final nail in the Cardinals’ coffin came about 3-1/2 minutes into the fourth quarter. After Lawson had managed five consecutive points in just over a minute bridging the break between the last two segments, neither club scored for more than two minutes with the score at 31-20.
Finally, Chillicothe sophomore backup guard c.J. Pfaff – who missed Tuesday’s win with illness, according to Cool, and didn’t play in the first three periods Thursday – was left uncovered at the top of the key and converted Konner Sewell’s feed from the right side into a 3-pointer that again made it a 14-points CHS lead with just under 4-1/2 minutes left.
“We hit some big shots from the perimeter,” the Hornets’ coach acknowledged. CHS had six treys total, none from its top, but currently slump-shackled, perimeter shooter Westley Brandsgaard, who went without a field goal on the night and scored only two points.
Statistically in its win, Chillicothe was led in scoring by Willard’s 14 markers. Marshall was in double figures in rebounding, unofficially, with 10 and also had a basket in each period for eight points, as well as a couple of assists.
Keaton Porth’s seven points topped Lawson (13-6), which has lost five of nine now in 2018, beginning with its previous loss to Chillicothe.