Game of spurts Friday, Dec. 7, 2018, saw Trenton get last one in late going to improve to 6-0 with 60-50 triumph in Chillicothe
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — The near-capacity crowd in the Chillicothe High School gym Friday night might have glimpsed into the future about two months.
In an intense game spiced by dueling early marksmanship and point-counterpoint runs as it wore on, the undefeated and well-polished Trenton Lady Bulldogs got the first and the last of the surges, allowing them to remain perfect this season via a 60-50 triumph over Chillicothe’s basketball Lady Hornets Friday (Dec. 7, 2018).
With CHS having chainsawed nine points off a 12-points fourth-quarter deficit in less than two minutes, Trenton made a key steal to deny the Lady Hornets a shot at tying the game and then rattled off 10 unanswered points over the final four minutes of a game that could be a prelude to a Class 3 district tournament championship game in mid-February.
Noting the allowance of 60 points, CHS coach Darren Smith confirmed, “We’ve got to clean up our defense some and I think we’ll be okay.”
While Trenton improved to 6-0, Chillicothe lost a second-straight time to stand 3-2 heading into a home clash with Macon Tuesday night at 6 o’clock.
While the home team had its undefeated foe vulnerable midway through the final quarter, it had spent much of the night scrambling to keep pace or catch up. Chillicothe had five leads, but nothing more than three points.
The squads, including some blood relatives on each side, took about 90 seconds to get settled in on offense, but once they did, both flashed hot hands.
None were hotter than THS senior guard Mykah Hurley, who swished three corner treys in the first quarter to headline a 20-points opening frame for the guests. Lady Bulldogs senior point guard Ainsley Tolson added seven tallies of her own with a mix of a trey, deuce, two free throws, and an assist or two that displayed her dazzling versatility.
“That’s the thing Ainsley does for them is she creates,” Smith orally saluted in post-game comments. “You’ve got to pay so much attention to her (and) then she kicks (the ball) out” to 3-point shooters.
However, with senior guard/forward Laney Gaston leading the way, Chillicothe hit a high percentage from inside and out to keep things close.
A 10-3 Trenton first-quarter spurt that gave it a 20-15 lead after one essentially was balanced by a 10-4 CHS stretch in the second frame, leaving the game tight as the first-half time waned.
When Tolson deposited two free throws in her team’s treasury 17.5 seconds before halftime to flip a 25-24 CHS edge to a 26-25 Lady Bulldogs margin at intermission, the visitors never trailed again.
Coming out of the dressing room sharp, while Chillicothe (3-2) emerged out of rhythm, Trenton followed a swap of deuces with 12 consecutive points in a 3:10 span to try to gain control with a 40-27 lead midway through the third quarter.
However, Chillicothe rattled off eight unanswered points in less than 90 seconds late in the stanza to draw within five at 42-37 before the Lady Bulldogs (6-0) headed to the fourth segment possessing a solid 46-38 advantage.
When Trenton netted the first four points of the last quarter to once more elevate its advantage to twin digits at 50-38 with six minutes of regulation time to go, things looked dark for the home team. However, in less than two minutes, Chillicothe fleetingly had the ball with a chance to tie things.
Beginning with Laney Gaston’s 3-pointer from right of the key, CHS fired up a 9-0 run in 1:40. Jordan Hibner followed that trifecta with two made free throw, Kennedie Kieffer converted Hibner’s lead pass to the right block into a lay-in, and Hunter Keithley got ahead of the pack to take Kieffer’s outlet pass after a long rebound into a layup that pulled Chillicothe within 50-47 with still 4:10 to play.
When a Hurley 3-point attempt from her favorite spot in the right corner – perhaps partially blocked – descended well short of the basket and Chillicothe secured the rebound, the Lady Hornets had the ball with a chance to tie with a 3-pointer, but never got the chance to try to draw closer or even.
Hurley, whose shot had fallen short and who had ended up on the hardwoods on her follow-through, used her late arrival on the THS defensive end to sneak up behind the Chillicothe player with the ball just across midcourt and stole it.
“It got so loud that Hunter couldn’t hear (teammates) hollering at her that somebody was coming from behind her, “ Smith rued. “That would have been a big spot.”
In the ensuing transition, Tolson was fouled and hit the first two free throws in the “bonus,” again making it a multi-possessions game at 52-47 with 3:44 left.
By the time Chillicothe scored again, less than a half-second remained and Trenton had made two baskets and four more free throws, completing a decisive 10-0 run that wrapped up its latest win.
Statistically, Trenton was paced by Tolson’s 20 points and four assists. Hurley, who added two more 3s in the third stanza, netted 17 points and made a team-high five steals and Maci Moore double-doubled with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
The Lady Bulldogs were very good at the charity stripe, led by Tolson’s 9-of-10 night. With Moore also converting five of six, THS hit 17 of 21 tries at the line, compared to Chillicothe’s nine of 12.
“They shot the ball really well” from both the field and line, the Chillicothe head coach complimented. By Smith’s review of game video, Trenton made 61 percent of its shots inside the arc, compared to CHS’ respectable 46 percent. Despite Hurley’s hot start, the teams ended the night effectively even from long distance – THS seven of 19 (37 percent) and the Lady Hornets five of 13 (38 percent).
The Lady Hornets were topped in scoring by Hibner’s 14 markers. Gaston popped in a career-best 11 and Kieffer 10. Keithley was limited to six points, but dished out seven assists. Kieffer, averaging a double-double in points and rebounds, unofficially led the Lady Hornets with eight boards.
“We weren’t as aggressive as we needed to be at attacking at times,” Smith assessed. “There were times when we were. I just didn’t feel like it was as consistent as I would have liked it to be.”
In keeping with the closeness of the game’s score through the first 28 minutes, the teams’ rebounding, assist, and turnover totals were relatively even as the squads offered an enticing preview of a potential district-tournament rematch.