After having a chance to win previous game at buzzer thwarted by opponent's defense, CHS girls gain 14th triumph of 2017-18 season Tuesday (Feb. 13, 2018) when St. Joseph: Lafayette misses twice before hitting shot after time expired
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — The scales balanced for the Chillicothe High School basketball Lady Hornets Tuesday. Barely.
With four seconds of a victory which would have kept them in position to be Midland Empire Conference champions – at least on a shared basis – for a second-straight year last Friday before Savannah scored on a putback and then blocked a would-be CHS game-winning shot at the buzzer, the Lady Hornets shaded visiting St. Joseph: Lafayette 33-32 Tuesday (Feb. 13, 2018) when a would-be Lafayette follow shot that dropped through the net was ruled by game officials to have been released – probably by no more than five-tenths of a second – after time expired.
By that sliver of time and slender scoring margin, the CHS girls boosted their fine 2017-18 record to 14-7 overall. They are 3-2 now in the league. Lafayette also now is 14-7, but 2-3 in conference contests.
“It’s a typical MEC game,” Darren Smith, Chillicothe’s head coach, reflected in post-game comments. “It’s ugly. It’s tough. It’s hard.”
That the game went down to the final ticks of the clock and was decided by the narrowest-possible margin was warranted, considering the widest gap between the clubs over the game’s last 21 minutes was four points.
That happened to be the margin Chillicothe overcame in the final 1:15.
Senior guard Harlie Jones set up sophomore Jordan Hibner for a 3-points shot from the top of the key – an attempt which barely reached the front of the rim, but bounced from it to the back brace and then dropped through the net with 1:13 remaining, making it 32-31, Lady Irish.
Fouling in the backcourt a couple of times in the next 10 seconds to force LHS to the free-throw stripe, Chillicothe got the outcome it sought there as a Lady Irish player missed on the front end of her “bonus” chance and the home team rebounded.
Searching both inside and out for a good shot, CHS found nothing it like for about 20 seconds.
Then, a Lafayette defender lost track of Jones as she slipped toward the baseline to the right of the hoop while a pass went from the left low post to Hunter Keithley at the top of the key.
Spied by her teammate and aware she was open as the pass came her way, the lefthander caught Keithley’s feed and launched a quick shot from about 11 feet away as she turned. Her touch was perfect, the ball silkily kissing the twine as it fell straight through for a CHS lead with 37 seconds to go.
The Lady Hornets’ defense held once before Lafayette had to foul three times before it could force Chillicothe to the charity stripe for its own 1-and-1 test.
Just as their opponent had done, the Lady Hornets could not convert even once, but, as Lafayette rebounded and quickly headed to the forecourt, alert defense and positioning by three Chillicothe players forced an off-balance, off-target LHS shot with about two seconds to go.
However, just to the right of the basket, a Lady Irish player snared the misfire, but rushed her putback attempt and also missed. That used up just enough time that a teammate who grabbed that miss could not get her on-target try from underneath the rim away before the clock ran out.
“I think we are playing well,” Smith reflected. “It’s just hard to see, as ugly as the last two or three games have been.”
While the game grew very close a few minutes into the second quarter and stayed that way the remainder of the contest, the first 11 minutes of action were a swap of extended scoring slumps.
Chillicothe, for a second time in its last four outings, managed only one first-frame field goal – this time needing all except the last 42 seconds of the segment to accomplish that.
By the time Keithley banked in a running shot from about seven feet right of the hoop off a Catey Trout setup, Lafayette had already posted seven points.
However, after Tray Byrd’s driving three-points play 38 ticks into the second stanza made it a 10-2 game, Chillicothe flipped the game on its head.
It started when Jones’ baseline in-bounds pass found Keithley about four feet in front of the hoop in mid-lane. As she banked in a shot from there, the sophomore was fouled, allowing her to match Byrd’s basket-and-1 90 seconds earlier.
The play commenced a 13-2 Lady Hornets run that shot them into the lead.
Following Keithley’s conversion, Kennedie Kieffer nailed a 13-feet pull-up jumper from the right baseline and Hibner found the range from beyond the arc in the left corner off Maddi Graham’s pass a minute later.
Now tied at 10-10, Lafayette attempted to blunt the CHS momentum with a short-range shot, but Keithley knotted things again with a backcourt steal and driving deuce with three minutes to go in the first half.
About 90 seconds later, Graham sank a free throw to break the tie and then Jones converted a defensive-end steal into a long, driving layup for a 15-12 lead.
A Tray Byrd trey erased that deficit with 25 seconds to go in the second stanza, but backup swing player Graham popped and hit from about 16 feet on the left wing six seconds ahead of intermission to give Chillicothe a lead at the break.
“Maddi Graham gave us great minutes,” Smith lauded, aware the senior unofficially had led the team with five rebounds – four in that first half.
Another low-scoring quarter followed, producing only 15 total points and ending with Byrd answering a Graham “3” with an off-balance, driving deuce just ahead of the horn that left it a 1-point game, 24-23, going to the final frame.
After Laney Gaston drilled an 18-footer from the right side, CHS went pointless for exactly three minutes, during which time the guests went from down three to up four. However, after the clubs exchanged buckets, Chillicothe closed the game with Hibner’s and Jones’ shots while blanking LHS the last 2:14 to pull it out.
Statistically, Chillicothe had the unusual distinction of winning a game in which it did not have a twin-digits scorer and the opponent had someone with 20 points or more.
In this case, Byrd had exactly 20, including her side’s last seven, but no teammate managed more than four in support.
Meanwhile, the Lady Hornets had four players net between six and nine markers. Keithley led with nine, but Graham, Hibner, and Kieffer chipped in a half-dozen each. And there was Jones, who had a game-high three assists, unofficially, providing the eventual game-winning shot.
Chillicothe prevailed despite unofficially having three times as many turnovers (12-4) as the opposition. That was offset some by CHS’ unofficial 21-14 margin on the boards.
CHS' Lady Hornets will play a make-up of their early-February postponed home game against league foe Maryville tonight (Wednesday). The varsity/junior-varsity doubleheader will begin at 5 p.m.