Losers to MHS by 23 in their season opener five weeks before, the Hornets kept Tuesday's (Jan. 8, 2019) outcome in suspense until last two minutes in 66-57 loss

MARYVILLE, Mo. — Beaten by 23 points in the opening game of their 2018-19 season about five weeks before, when they had only two players with any varsity-level prep basketball experience of consequence, the Chillicothe (Mo.) HS Hornets demonstrated their advancement since when they rematched with that original opponent Tuesday night. While the Hornets’ improvement was clear and undeniable – producing 57 points on the foe’s floor after managing only 39 on a neutral court in late November, they learned there is still distance between themselves and keen rival Maryville.
Easy fodder for MHS’ Spoofhounds, who themselves were at a disadvantage – with multiple key players only three days removed from the final game of their football season – when the two teams last squared off at Savannah, the Hornets (9-5, 1-1 conf.) kept trying to exploit a potential psychological letdown by a Maryville team in its first outing since losing a critical Midland Empire Conference clash with St. Joseph: Lafayette – a loss which, despite it being MHS’ opening MEC outing, cost the ’Hounds their best crack at the league title.
However, each time Chillicothe tried to ratchet up the pressure on its host, Maryville (11-2, 1-1 conf.) calmly responded, allowing it to eventually close out a 66-57 conference win without too much late worry.
The Hornets parlayed a very good start – they led twice in the first few minutes and were within a point early in the second period – into a game-long effort which had them within single digits for all but about two minutes of the contest.
Once the ’Hounds created a permanent multi-possessions gap with a 7-0 mini-spurt early in quarter No. 2, the best Chillicothe could do was chip away at the deficit multiple times, only to have MHS dance out of range again and again.
After the home team’s extended 16-5 push in the second quarter gave it a 30-21 lead, the Hornets clawed back within 31-27, only to have Maryville net the last five points of the half for a 36-27 intermission margin.
The Spoofhounds tallied first in the last half, but Chillicothe tried again with a game-best 7-0 run that pulled it back within four, 38-34.
MHS followed suit, though, uncorking its best stretch of the night – a 10-2 push that created the game’s widest spread, 48-36, late in the third period.
GIven a chance to cave in to frustration and fold, the Hornets opted for the opposite response.
Before that quarter ended, junior point guard C.J. Pfaff used a crossover drive from the top of the key to get a layup over the front rim and, next trip upcourt, used extra cushion prompted by the previous move to rise up and hit a pull-up 3-pointer that capped the scoring in the frame.
Maryville’s top scorer on the night, guard Tate Oglesby, netted two free throws in the early moments of the fourth quarter, only to have Chillicothe sophomore guard Mason Baxter find the range from beyond the arc about a half-minute later. The 3-for-2 trade meant the Hornets had halved their deficit to six in only a couple of minutes with still more than seven minutes remaining.
Would Maryville, perhaps dispirited a bit by its close road loss to Lafayette and less than fully invested in this outing after dominating Chillicothe previously, yield to the repeated CHS threats and falter down the stretch.
Not surprisingly, the answer was, “No,” although the ’Hounds could not decisively dispense of the visitors, either.
The teams swapped 5-0 mini-runs, then subsequent deuces – all of Chillicothe’s scoring by junior guard/forward Westley Brandsgaard – to have it stay a 6-points game with about three minutes remaining.
With time now a growing ally, Maryville finally cemented its victory by tallying seven of the next nine points to boost its lead back to twin digits at 64-53 with just over a minute left.
The last of Brandsgaard’s seven successful free throws in eight attempts in the game came with just under 30 seconds to go and, with MHS holding the ball without opposition the rest of the time, made the final margin nine.
Statistically, as in the teams’ first get-together, Chillicothe’s attack was dominated by the junior tandem of Brandsgaard and Pfaff, who netted 21 and 18 points, respectively.
However, where their combined 33 points accounted all for six of CHS’ November clash tallies, this time, their more-seasoned teammates contributed almost 20 points this go-around. Senior forward Peyton Forck netted eight, Baxter seven, and senior reserve forward Hunter Swift three.
A bit of extra encouragement for CHS, which might meet Maryville again during the approaching Cameron Invitational Tournament, was that it managed those 57 points – exactly 50 percent more than they had in the first game with the Spoofhounds – without shooting all that well. CHS made exactly its season average of 33 percent of its 3-points field-goal attempts and a sub-average 50 percent of its tries from shorter range. Its 67 percent accuracy on free throws was a smidgen below its season standard, too.
Maryville’s offense was paced by Oglesby’s 21 points. Top gun Eli Dowis uncharacteristically struggled with his shooting and settled for 11 points, the same total Tyler Houchin hit for. Houchin had a team-high three treys, including a 26-footer seconds before halftime to expand MHS’ margin then from six to nine.
Brandsgaard just missed a points-rebounds double-double, grabbing nine boards. Pfaff had a team-best five assists.