Pfaff, Burk, others help CHS turn tide with 19-1 stretch in last nine minutes of first half, leading to 56-41 Midland Empire Conference home victory Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — A 7-minutes stretch of defensive dominance and balanced offensive effectiveness from the final minute of the first period to the last 1:50 of the first half added up to a 19-1 Chillicothe High School basketball Hornets run that set them on the path ot a 56-41 Midland Empire Conference victory over the Smithville Warriors Tuesday night.
Sophomore reserve guard C.J. Pfaff had a three-points play to commence the surge that erased a 16-8 Smithville lead and later added a trifecta and a pair of assists – one setting up senior reserve center Jonathan Burk for a 2-handed stuff – as the Hornets (17-3, 2-1 conf.) for a third time this season immediately followed a loss with a victory. CHS had lost to Maryville last Saturday in the championship game of the Cameron Invitational Tournament.
Above and beyond his dunk, the 6’7” Burk stood out in the contest in multiple facets, scoring nine points, grabbing eight rebounds, and deterring and altering many SHS shots.
“I thought Jon Burk came in and controlled the game for that second quarter,” saluted Tim Cool, Hornets head coach.
“… He doesn’t always block the shot, but he, a lot of times, will alter that shot. … He changes a lot of things in there and then, if they miss it, he’s going to go rebound it.”
Chillicothe’s boys, moving inexorably closer to their first 20-wins season since 2003-04, will try to advance one closer Friday night when they host St. Joseph: Benton in a 5 p.m. varsity/junior-varsity/freshman tripleheader.
Benton lost 52-49 to Cameron Tuesday.
“They’re going to be very aggressive” on defense, Cool assessed BHS’ Cardinals. “They’re going to be out in the passing lanes, trying to get up and really pressure the ball, so our guys are going to have to be strong with the ball and they’re going to have to make good decisions.”
For the first seven minutes Tuesday, things didn’t look too rosy for the home red-and-black as the hosts turned the ball over seven or eight times and rarely denied Smithville points as the Warriors doubled them in that early stretch.
Finally, though, multiple reserves Cool inserted began to staunch the flow of blood and things turned Chillicothe’s way.
“That first quarter – we were on pace to give up 65 points and that’s not going to do it for us,” the Hornets coach freely acknowledged. “Our guys, to their credit, played three really good quarters of defense” after that.
The coach took time to note the role the reserves played; Chillicothe’s backups ended up outscoring Smithville’s 18-4.
“Our bench was really good tonight,” lauded Cool. “Jon Burk, Isaiah Boon, C.J. Pfaff, Hayden Montgomery – I thought those guys all came in and really helped us.”
After a Warriors bucket exactly 60 seconds ahead of the terminus of the opening period made it 16-8 for the visitors, Pfaff signalled an alteration in the game’s trajectory when he scored on a left-baseline drive while drawing a foul. Converting at the foul line, too, he sent Chillicothe into the second frame behind by five, but with a sliver of momentum.
That sliver grew exponentially in the first 15 seconds of the next period when Pfaff got into the paint with the ball and, as defenders converged, slipped the rock to Burk at the left block. Up went the lanky center to cram the ball down through the ring for a bucket that made it a 1-possession game.
It took most of the next two minutes, but that margin was erased in one motion as, in transition, Pfaff fed Konner Sewell, who had spotted up outside the 3-point arc on the left wing. The senior’s aim was true and the sides were all square again, 16-16.
On its subsequent possession, Smithville ended a 3-minutes stretch without scoring by making one of two free throws, but that was only a fleeting blip on the Hornets’ defensive radar.
Less than 20 seconds later, Adler Marshall’s nifty reverse layup after receiving Sewell’s pass under the backgoard gave Chillicothe its first lead. The Hornets would keep it the rest of the night.
Two Sewell charity tosses, Pfaff’s triple off Jack Willard’s kick-out pass, Walker Graves’ power drive down the lane and Westley Brandsgaard’s two free throws after twice tenaciously rebounding his own missed shots made it 11 consecutive CHS markers. Put together with the eight points preceding that lonely SHS free throw, that meant Chillicothe had rung up 19 of the last 20 points, a stretch which led to them holding a 27-19 lead at halftime.
The mid-game rest helped Smithville gather its wits and, with a 6-0 mini-surge over a nearly-3-minutes span of the third quarter, the Warriors moved to within one possession, 30-27. Chillicothe was not to be denied, though.
Senior backup guard Isaiah Boon, playing likely his most minutes of the season and with good effectiveness, split two SHS defenders to drive to the paint from the right wing, then outfoxed a taller defender with a spinning, underhand shot which kissed the glass and curled into the twine for a 5-points Hornets lead.
After Brandsgaard followed with a trey, Smithville missed a chance to make up more ground, converting only one of four foul shots 26 seconds apart. That left the door ajar for Burk’s putback of his own miss two seconds before period No. 3 ended to send CHS into the fourth up nine, 37-28.
The big man then gathered in Marshall’s high-low lob pass to score while being fouled 12 seconds into the new stanza. When he completed the first of three “hoop-and-harm” sequences CHS completed in the last stanza – Graves and Pfaff had the others, the Hornets had their biggest lead yet, 40-28, and Smithville was never able to seriously threaten them thereafter.
Statistically, Chillicothe held Smithville (4-14, 0-2 conf.) to only 25 more tallies in the last 24 minutes after being shredded in the opening segment.
“We made some adjustments and our guys were moving their feet, getting better angles,” Cool explained how his team was able to blunt the Warriors’ aggressive, drive-oriented offense.
At the other end of the court, Brandsgaard gave positive signs of regaining his shooting form, tallying a team-best 14 points. That included two treys after an uncharacteristic 6-games “downtown” drought after having over 50 percent success there during the 2017 portion of the season.
His head coach stressed the 6’3” sophomore had kept other facets of his game in sync while working to relocate his touch.
“We have so much confidence in Wes,” Cool stated. “… He comes out here every day and works at it and works at it and works at it. … Even when he’s not scoring, the guy he’s guarding is not scoring either. He’s a multi-dimensional-type player.”
Brandsgaard continued his season-long sizzling at the free-throw line, going four of five Tuesday, an excellent rate, but actually lower than his 87 percent for the season. That season percentage is neck and neck with the Hornets’ single-season record (87.5 percent) set by All-Stater Mitch Parrish in CHS’ 1980-81 state-championship campaign, according to the records researched and maintained by Randy Dean of KCHI Radio.
While Brandsgaard was CHS’ only twin-digits scorer on the night, Graves joined Burk and Pfaff at nine.
Smithville was paced by 6’5” junior post player Jake Fisher, who had a game-high 15.
Led by Burk, but with a bevy of other contributors, the Hornets enjoyed an unofficial 34-18 advantage in rebounds, a fortuitous development, considering their season-high 22 turnovers.