Defense, Brandsgaard's sharpshooting aid 53-49 first-round escape of new KC-area school in Bishop LeBlond Holiday Classic tournament. Will face East Buchanan Friday at 5:30 p.m.

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — The Chillicothe High School basketball Hornets’ 12-plus-years quest for a tournament championship resumed – and nearly was extended for at least another month – at midday today.
Opening competition in the Bishop LeBlond Holiday Classic with an 8-1 record and nominally the title favorite, the Hornets surprisingly were matched against a likely-tough foe and almost didn’t survive. However, netting the game’s final four points on free throws over the last 1:50 and receiving game-long sizzling shooting from sophomore Westley Brandsgaard, Chillicothe slipped past Lee’s Summit: St. Michael the Archangel 53-49.
“We’ve got gritty, tough players who do a great job, defensively,” praised Tim Cool, CHS head coach. “To keep that team under 50 (points) is quite an accomplishment.”
“I thought our guys did a great job of disrupting their driving lanes. We were going under screens and trying to beat them to spots and got good help coming from the weak side.”
The Hornets’ triumph sent them to Friday’s 5:30 p.m. championship semifinal against East Buchanan, a 73-64 victor over Falls City, Neb., early this evening.
Tomorrow evening’s Hornets game will be broadcast live on KCHI Radio, as usual. There will not be any live video coverage, but the Hornets’ Saturday game – whenever it occurs – is slated to be delivered live on both KCHI and, the C-T has verified from those outlets.
Regardless of Friday’s outcome, the CHS boys will be in action at Bishop LeBlond’s Grace Gymnasium again Saturday, either at 5:30 (third-place) or 8:30 p.m. (championship game).
Today’s midday victory over the first-year Kansas City-area Catholic high school, which effectively replaced the former O’Hara High, lifted the Chillicothe boys’ won-lost record to 9-1.
It is the first time the Hornets have won nine of their first 10 games of a season since the 1997-98 state runnersup started 9-0, then lost the championship game of their division in the Bank Midwest-William Jewell Classic. That was the ’97-’98 club’s only defeat until it lost the state championship game to Washington: St. Francis Borgia to finish the year 30-2.
The Hornets’ contest with SMA’s Guardians was close for all but a stretch of about eight minutes from late in the second quarter to late in the third.
CHS seemed to seize control of the flow of play with an 8-0 spurt in just over a minute as halftime neared. That surge helped them lead 30-22 at intermission and Brandsgaard’s 3-points shot and three-points play in the first 3:05 of the third period pushed the Hornets’ lead to 10, 36-26.
However, after Konner Sewell’s transition layup after a Jack Willard defensive-end steal made it 39-29, St. Michael used its quickness and press to fashion a lead-seizing 13-2 run. When Ben Palacios hit a 3-pointer with three seconds left in the quarter, the suburban Kansas City school carried a 45-43 advantage into the fourth frame.
“That was a good unit they had out there,” Cool said of the smaller, more-disruptive outcourt quintet St. Michael the Archangel had on the floor during its late third-quarter push. The personnel being used by Breckenridge native Mark Scanlon, the SMA coach who made the move over from O’Hara, were, in part, dictated by foul trouble for the Guardians’ 6’7” and 6’6” inside players.
Chillicothe tightened its defense at that point and netted the first six points of the last stanza to go back in front, 49-45.
SMA answered with its only field goal and only four points of the period to tie it with 2:25 left before two Brandsgaard charity tosses were sandwiched by one each by Walker Graves and Willard to provide the winning points. Willard’s foul shot with two seconds to go iced it.
“That was a great game to be in,” reflected Cool. “They really pushed us.”
While the victory wasn’t secure until the last two ticks of the clock, Chillicothe spent the majority of the contest with the lead.
It got out to a 7-2 advantage on deuces by Walker Graves and Adler Marshall and a trey from Konner Sewell and trailed for only about one of the first 23 minutes, although there were five brief ties, as well.
“They were ready to play at 11:30,” the Chillicothe coach said of the earlier-than-normal tipoff hour. “… You’ve got to be ready whenever game time is and we were ready today.”
With the game knotted at 20 with three minutes to go in the opening half, the Hornets used the remaining time before the break to create the game’s first real separation.
After a CHS offensive rebound, Peyton Forck’s quick pass found Brandsgaard open to the right of the key for a tie-snapping triple. About a half-minute later, it was Forck on the receiving end of Marshall’s long, press-breaking pass for a layup before, not quite a minute after that, Willard sank an open “3” from right of the key for a sudden 28-20 margin.
When Forck countered two SMA foul shots with a left-side lay-in off Marshall’s high-low feed, Chillicothe carried an 8-points advantage to the locker room.
Statistically, Brandsgaard hit for a game-best 21 points by sinking four of six shots from 2-points distance, both 3-points tries he had, and all seven of his free throws. The 6’2” sophomore also had a team-high seven rebounds.
As a team, Chillicothe sank 60 percent of the shots it took, including a season-best 50 percent – four of eight – outside the arc. That offset their off-form (13 of 23) free-throw work.
The Guardians (4-5) were led by Pedro Leverette’s 12 markers and 10 by Anthony Holden.