Hornets, now 21-4, and Lady Hornets, 16-8, run away from visiting Cameron in "Senior Night" Midland Empire Conference action
CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — Even though delayed a day by bad weather, the competition portion of Chillicothe High School’s 2017-18 basketball “Senior Night” could scarcely have gone any better Wednesday.
With junior center Kennedie Kieffer virtually unstoppable inside as she double-doubled in points and rebounds, the Lady Hornets shredded visiting Cameron for 11 of the game’s first 13 points, then shrugged off a stretch of defensive lethargy to blitz them 36-7 over a span of just over two quarters in a 56-28 Midland Empire Conference romp.
Following that act, the Hornets – even with three seniors making their first-ever varsity starts – bettered the girls’ opening run with an 11-0 start, but delayed their defensive dip until the second half. By then, they had amassed a stunning 36-6 lead less than two minutes into the third quarter before finally settling for a 64-35 triumph.
The dual CHS victories completed the regular season – the boys having gone 21-4, matching the Hornets’ most wins since 1997-98, and the girls an impressive 16-8 a year after graduating a handful of 3-years starters and 10 seniors.
The Lady Hornets now prepare to open the Class 4 District 16 Tournament at Cameron Saturday afternoon at 2:30 (time changed Friday) against Kirksville, while the boys – seeded second and thus having a quarterfinal-round bye – spend nearly a week prepping for either a rematch with Cameron or a third clash with 2-time victim St. Joseph: Benton next Tuesday night.
Wednesday’s final home hoops appearances of the season saw both Chillicothe head coaches start as many seniors as they could.
In the case of Lady Hornets coach Darren Smith, that meant all three he has – usual starters Liberty Cox and Harlie Jones and reserve guard/forward Maddi Graham.
For Tim Cool of the Hornets – like Smith a year ago, there weren’t enough lineup slots to accomodate his group of seven 12th graders. After all seven were introduced to the crowd as starters, regulars Adler Marshall and Konner Sewell were joined on the floor at the opening tip by three first-timers – center Jonathan Burk, wing guard Hayden Montgomery, and point guard Isaiah Boon.
The trio of “newbies” quickly asserted themselves at both ends of the court.
The 6’7” Burk commanded the defensive backboards with five grabs in the first five minutes, while Boon and Montgomery both helped Burk and first-year starters Sewell and Marshall shut out Cameron for nearly six minutes and bombed home a 3-pointer on the offensive end before taking their first rest of the night with the team ahead 11-0.
Eventually, Burk narrowly missed a double-double, scoring 10 points to go with nine rebounds and a team-high six assists, Montgomery rang up eight points and snared four rebounds, and Boon tallied six points and nabbed three boards. They also did their part for ball security, helping the Hornets only lose the ball on turnovers eight times after the club had more than twice that total each of its previous three outings.
The Hornets’ other two normal senior starters – Jack Willard and Walker Graves – flourished in their unaccustomed reserve roles this night. Graves, a 4-years starter, paired 11 points and 11 rebounds to lead the team in his final home game, while Willard sank three treys as he equaled Graves’ scoring total and earned four assists, one more than Graves.
All seven senior Hornets scored at least three points and they combined for 54 of the team’s 64, as well as 36 of the club’s 41 rebounds and 18 of its 20 assists.
In the girls’ game, while all three seniors started and performed well – Cox unofficially had six rebounds and two assists, Jones a team-high three assists, and Graham two each of points, rebounds, and assists, they combined for only four points.
Instead, the 6’ Kieffer devastated the Lady Dragons around the rim, netting 20 points – a new career-high after having 18 twice in the three previous games – while unofficially ripping down 11 caroms.
Found repeatedly in the low post by teammates and also grabbing a couple of offensive rebounds early, Kieffer tallied eight of the Chillicothe points as it bolted to the 11-2 lead in the first 4-1/2 minutes and had 13 of the first 15 and 16 by halftime, even with having missed three free throws.
Following the Lady Hornets’ sharp start, Cameron impressively exploited the hosts’ lapse in defensive intensity that began in the final two minutes of the first quarter and extended into the second.
When Sydney Nichols of the Lady Dragons (6-18 1-6) sank a 3-pointer from left of the key at the mid-point of the second stanza, Chillicothe’s one-time 11-points lead had vanished.
It soon reappeared and then mushroomed, however.
On the subsequent Lady Hornets possession after Cameron knotted things, sophomore guard Jordan Hibner nailed a right-wing trifecta, igniting another run of 11 unanswered points.
When this 11-0 run was interrupted by a Cameron free throw early in the third quarter, Chillicothe simply reeled off another nine in succession to lead 35-16.
For good measure, the fourth stanza saw the home team’s longest skein of the night – 14 consecutive tallies – as it grew its gap to 29 points, 51-22. Eventually, Chillicothe’s last field goal of the night – sophomore reserve guard Magy Thomas’ right-corner 3-ball – created its largest lead at 56-26.
In addition to Keiffer’s 20 points, the Lady Hornets got 18 from Keithley – all except three of those after halftime. Reserve forward Maggie Pfaff provided both six points and six rebounds and threw in two assists for good measure.
Cameron’s girls were led in scoring by Nichols’ 11 points. Paige Harper added 10. The 11-13 (4-3 MEC) Cameron boys’ Kyles Hill tallied 14 and Matt Baker 12.