St. Joseph: Benton defense causes 20 CHS turnovers, but Chillicothe's own defense allows Hornets to claim Midland Empire Conference home game 40-39 Friday, Feb. 2

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — Although not a recipe for sustained success, the Chillicothe High School basketball Hornets won a second-straight game in which they committed 20 turnovers or more Friday, bailed out by their scrappy defense that led to poor shooting success for the opposition.
A Midland Empire Conference game which never saw more than a 6-points difference between a CHS squad which entered with 17 victories on the season and a visiting St. Joseph: Benton club which owns only seven oozed into the Hornets’ “wins” column, 40-39.
Although Chillicothe never trailed again after Westley Brandsgaard’s driving layup from the left baseline with 2:16 left in the first half, the outcome literally was not decided until after the final buzzer.
Following a CHS free-throw miss with nine seconds remaining that kept its lead at a precarious point, Benton (7-13, 1-2 conf.) rebounded and advanced the ball quickly to its forecourt.
There, the Cardinals’ Mason Byrd, who already owned 15 points in the game – including 11 in the second half, drove on the dribble from well right of the key toward the basket. Shunted wide of the lane as three defenders angled toward him or stepped over into his path, Byrd rose on the run to try a shot it appeared he hoped to float about 5-6 feet to the backboard in hopes of banking home a dramatic game-winner. However, photos confirm, CHS' 6'3" Westley Brandsgaard settled his hand atop the ball as Byrd, ball raised above his head, attempted to release it. Byrd’s descending body collided with that of CHS' Adler Marshall, standing on the court with arms raised straight up, not toward the shooter, photos also show.
As the buzzer sounded and the crowd noise swelled, everyone waited for a count to see if a referee’s whistle would sound for a foul call and, if so, on whom. No tweet came, however, leaving the Hornets and their fans relieved and cheering and Benton and its faithful in disbelief at the “no-call.”
The final play was a perfect fit for a contest which, on paper, should have been securely claimed by the home club.
Chillicothe (18-3, 3-1 conf.) had bested less-experienced Benton by 16 on a neutral floor early in the season and was on its home court for this one. However, occasional carelessness with the ball and quick defensive recovery by Benton that thwarted numerous CHS passes headed toward unguarded players prevented the Hornets from ever going on an extended push which might undermine Benton’s resolve.
The Hornets scored the game’s first three points, then countered a brief 5-0 BHS flurry with an 8-2 stretch to lead 11-7 late in in the first period. However, the south St. Joseph team held CHS to only one field goal over the seven minutes, outscoring it 7-2 to regain the upper hand, 14-13, on Quentin Shimer’s drive to the left of the lane 2-1/2 minutes ahead of halftime.
As had happened twice in the first quarter and would be repeated three more times in the second half, on the Chillicothe possession after Benton gained that lead, the Hornets immediately took it back, on Brandsgaard’s driving deuce 14 ticks later.
That CHS basket started a 7-0 mini-run by the Hornets to close the half, being followed by Brandsgaard’s right-corner trey off a Burk pass and C.J. Pfaff’s weaving drive down the lane. That left the hosts owning a 20-14 margin at intermission.
When Chillicothe netted only two free throws in the first 5:10 of the third period, Benton – behind six Byrd tallies – clawed back to tie at 22-all, only to have Adler Marshall’s jump-hook from the left block snap it 10 seconds later.
BHS knotted it again in short order, but Marshall’s free throw 18 seconds later put the Hornets up once more before another Brandsgaard triple from the right side provided the only scoring of the last two minutes of the third frame and sent Chillicothe to the last segment in front 28-24.
When Byrd drove and scored 1:40 into the fourth period, the clubs were deadlocked for a third time in five minutes, but it would be the last.
Once more, it was Marshall doing the honors for CHS, accepting Walker Graves’ pass for a left-side lay-in 13 seconds after Byrd tied it. That again started a brief flurry as Brandsgaard got a 2-on-1 fast-break layup and then used a hesitation drive from the left wing to get to the rim in transition with just under five minutes to play.
Within the next 45 seconds, Byrd had scored twice for Benton, once on a free throw, to halve the gap to three with half of the period to go, but neither side scored consecutively the rest of the way. Chillicothe’s missing three of its last four free throws invited a last-second Benton upset, but, in the end, it didn’t quite happen.
Statistically, Byrd’s flock of 15 markers made him the game’s top scorer, supplemented by 10 from Cole Snapp – eight of those in the last quarter. Chillicothe was led by Brandsgaard’s 14 points, three shot blocks, and two steals and Marshall’s 12 markers plus eight rebounds.
Unofficially, the rebound totals were a wash, but Chillicothe’s 20 turnovers were seven more than the St. Joseph squad had and the Hornets were a mere seven of 17 at the foul line. Benton was nine of 13.
Chillicothe has a week between games now, helpful given Graves’ ankle twist during Friday’s game that limited his availability and effectiveness the last 2-plus quarters.
The Hornets will host Savannah next Friday in the school’s now-traditional, annual “Jam the Gym” night.