In NCMC "Holiday Hoops" event Tuesday, CHS girls shoot well inside, dominate backboards in first half, then cruise by injury-stripped Grain Valley 53-35

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
TRENTON, Mo. — In another clash – their fourth – with a team also off to a very good start in the 2016 portion of the 2016-17 season, Chillicothe High School’s high-flying Lady Hornets had themselves positioned well at halftime of their game against Grain Valley Tuesday night, leading 31-20.
When GVHS star guard Claire Rose, who took a hard spill in a collision late in the second quarter, was kept out of the final half as a precautionary measure, CHS’ intermission margin looked likely to be more than enough for the Lady Hornets (8-1) to prevail comfortably.
When Grain Valley’s second-best player, senior Kendyll Bailey, wrenched  knee while trying to plant her foot and change directions – forcing her from the game, as well – early in the second half, Chillicothe’s latest triumph was assured. The eventual count was 53-35, but the Lady Hornets led 51-25 with three minutes to go.
CHS had its own significant player sustain an injury. Senior starting point guard Karson Keithley landed heavily after making a jump pass along the baseline and limped off largely unaided.
“I hate to see it,” Darren Smith, CHS head coach, lamented the injuries, noting he was told by Lady Eagles coach Randy Draper that Rose was held out under suspicion of concussion protocol.
Of Bailey’s knee injury, he added, “That’s always scary for a kid,” likely remembering seeing, during his last year coaching at Meadvile before coming to Chillicothe three years ago, Halee Neal of MHS tear the anterior cruciate ligament in a knee in a non-contact play while changing directions on the dribble.
Of K. Keithley, the Lady Hornets coach cautioned, “She’s a tough kid, but it’s something we’ve got to look into to make sure everything’s all right.”
The loss dropped Grain Valley to 5-2. Earlier in the month, Chillicothe had handily dispatched previously-unbeatens Trenton and Macon before falling to undefeated Columbia: Hickman in their most-recent previous outing.
Paced by senior Hannah Jones’ ferocious attacking of the glass en route to 10 rebounds, the Lady Hornets established leads of 14-8 after one stanza and 31-20 at the half by controlling the backboards and scoring from short range.
CHS unofficially out-boarded the Lady Eagles 15-7 and scored its first nine field goals from within five feet of the rim at North Central Missouri College’s Ketcham Community Center.
“We felt like, with our size, we could go inside and get good points inside and that’s what we did most of the night,” Smith disclosed in a post-game broadcast interview.
He explained there was another reason for trying to get close for shots.
“When you come to a place like this (a gym with significant open space beyond the end of the court) and the backdrop’s different, one of our focal points was to not shoot as many 3s as we normally would.”
Once Rose and then Bailey were removed from the equation, the game was a mismatch. Chillicothe did not allow a GVHS basket in the third quarter, holding the Lady Eagles to one free throw – that in the last 45 seconds of the stanza – as the Lady Hornets’ lead ballooned to 41-21 after three frames.
An 8-0 run in the middle of the fourth quarter created the game’s greatest gap – 51-25 – before CHS’ deepest reserves were victimized by Grain Valley’s press in the late going.
Statistically, Han. Jones’ double-digits rebounds were supplemented by her five points and a pair of assists. Chillicothe’s relatively-modest scoring was topped by Whitney Clampitt’s 11 markers.
Grain Valley had three players with eight points each. Rose and Bailey evenly split their team’s first 16 points of the night and eventually sophomore guard Kendra Sibert matched them.
Next for Chillicothe is a week’s break from game play before traveling to Lawson Tuesday, Jan. 3.
“We’re going to give the girls two, three, four days off … to rest their bodies and rest their minds,” Smith discloses.