As Keithley was netting 16 points in the last eight minutes, CHS girls outscored Kansas City: Park Hill 11-1 in final 3-plus minutes Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019, to post 43-33 victory in championship semifinal of Kearney "Bulldog Classic"

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
KEARNEY, Mo. — Behind more-aggressive attacking of the basket by junior Hunter Keithley that resulted in her delivering 16 fourth-quarter markers, Chillicothe (Mo.) HS’ basketball Lady Hornets shook off the shackles of a frosty third quarter that cost them a 7-points lead over Kansas City: Park Hill to outscore the Lady Trojans 11-1 in the final 3:10 and claim a 43-33 victory in a championship-semifinal game in the 44th-annual “Bulldog Classic” tournament Wednesday night (Jan. 9, 2019).
Paired with host Kearney’s preceding 48-26 second-half knockout of Kansas City: Notre Dame de Sion, the tournament’s top two girls’ seeds will square off for the crown Friday night at 6:30 in KHS’ spacious, new “crystal palace” gym. Kearney’s Lady Bulldogs (10-1) are the top seed; CHS (11-2) is the No. 2 seed.
Both championship finalists had to play well in the second half to dispatch their semifinals opponents.
Notre Dame de Sion sank the first basket of the third quarter of their clash with the Lady Bulldogs to knot the score at 17-17, only to have the big, deep hosts shellac it 31-9 the rest of the way.
Chillicothe, seemingly shy about taking the ball hard to the hole against Park Hill’s defense which applied extensive perimeter pressure, constructed a 10-0 surge spanning halftime to possess a 24-17 lead with less than 2-1/2 minutes to go in the third stanza, yet found itself down 26-24 going to the fourth quarter after netting nary a basket and only two free throws in the last 7-1/2 minutes of the third segment.
Repeatedly having gained a numbers advantage within 15 feet of the basket only to pull back or attempt a pass that went awry for a turnover or steal during the first three quarters, Chillicothe head coach Darren Smith finally convinced his most-well-rounded player, Keithley, to make Park Hill respect the Lady Hornets’ willingness to take the ball all the way to the bucket.
Following a game-tying trey by the Lady Trojans with 4:28 remaining in regulation time, each team had a scoreless possession. However, on Park Hill’s, CHS senior center Kennedie Kieffer not only claimed a defensive rebound, but sensed that Keithley had leaked upcourt after defending the PHHS shot and, nearly blindly, flung the ball upcourt. Ahead of the pack, Keithley tracked it down and not only took it for a layup, but lured an ill-advised foul on a shot-block attempt. Converting the three-points play with 3:08 left, the junior wing guard-forward had given the Lady Hornets back the lead, this time for keeps.
After Park Hill committed a turnover, Keithley and Kieffer niftily worked a delayed “give-and-go” to pad the lead. From the left wing, Keithley flipped the ball to Kieffer just above the left block. After holding it a second, Kieffer tossed the ball back to her teammate on the wing. Feigning a drive to the baseline with a hard dribble, Keithley halted and again passed over her defender’s head to Kieffer, this time a bit farther up toward the elbow of the lane. However, this time, as soon as Keithley saw her defender look to follow the pass in hopes of applying a double-team on Kieffer, she darted toward the basket unnoticed.
Expecting Keithley’s movement, Kieffer barely caught the ball before flicking it back into Keithley’s hands. With no one between her and the rim about 10 feet away, the junior laid the ball of the glass for a 5-points CHS lead with 2-1/2 minutes to go. Park Hill never again had the ball with a chance to tie or lead as Keithley sank four of five subsequent free throws and a final, press-breaking layup, while the Kansas City team went without a field goal and only one made foul shot the last 4:25.
Helping key Chillicothe’s late success was its twice rebounding free throws it missed and scoring on the second chance.
With the game tied at 29 and just less than five minutes remaining, Jordan Hibner hit the first of two free throws and Kieffer snared the carom of the errant second shot in mid-lane and powered up the putback for a 3-points CHS lead.
Again with 1:29 remaining in only a 4-points game, the nearly-automatic Keithley had her lone misfire in 10 final-stanza charity attempts as she shot in the “bonus” situation. Because of Kieffer’s earlier play, Park Hill’s “inside” position defenders focused so much on keeping her from getting to this miss that no Lady Trojan went after the ball. The carom hit the court in mid-lane about 10 feet from the hoop where Keithley gratefully stepped forward to secure it and drive it back toward the basket. Fouled as she tried a short-range shot, this time she deposited both tries, making it 39-33, and, with solid defense and ballhandling the rest of the way, the Lady Hornets punched their title-game ticket.
The game’s first three quarters were a tale of exchanged short scoring spurts for each side.
CHS didn’t let Park Hill score for the first 2:40, but consecutive PHHS treys a half-minute apart put the Lady Trojans ahead 6-3.
Chillicothe countered that 6-0 run with six in a row of its own, four on Maggie Pfaff mid-range jumpers to the right of the paint and the last two on an off-balance Kieffer’s rainbow deuce from only a few feet out.
Back came the KC club with five unanswered points early in the second quarter to lead 11-9, but, following Park Hill’s fourth triple of the first 13 minutes, snapping a 14-14 deadlock, Hibner’s second trifecta of quarter No. 2 quickly tied things again.
With 42 seconds left in the half, CHS senior Laney Gaston accepted Haley Kidd’s pass from the left corner and buried a 3-pointer from quarter-court on the left side to put the Lady Hornets in front 20-17 at the mid-game break.
When Pfaff netted two free throws 21 ticks into the second half, Chillicothe was up by more than three for the first time, 22-17.
Stunningly, given both teams’ demonstrated outside shooting capability, neither scored a field goal for nearly six minutes at the start of the third quarter and Pfaff’s free throws and two by Keithley at the 2:37 mark were the only tallies in that stretch.
The 7-points lead those two Keithley foul tosses created vanished when Park Hill’s attack awakened, while Chillicothe’s stayed in a snooze. A driving deuce, a 3-pointer, and a putback pulled PHHS even at 24 and another stylish drive from the top of the key to the left side of the lane for a left-handed scoop finish off the window by Lady Trojans freshman guard Kennedy Townsend put it in front for the first time in the second half two seconds before the horn ended the frame.
Seemingly administered some “smelling salts” during the between-quarters break, Chillicothe snapped out of its funk immediately in the last stanza.
Rebounding a missed Park Hill shot on the first possession, the Lady Hornets had Keithley and Kieffer race upcourt, the latter heading for the paint while Keithley drifted out to the left wing. With Park Hill’s retreating players more concerned with tracking Kieffer, Hibner fired a half-court pass to a completely-neglected Keithley, who turned and triggered a set shot from 20 feet that rippled the cords and put CHS back on top.
Park Hill regained the upper hand with two free throws with just over six minutes left to play, but that was its last lead. It did tie things at 29-29 and again at 32 after that, but Chillicothe uncorked its 11-1 finishing kick to earn the win.
Statistically, with her 16 points in the last eight minutes, Keithley finished with a game-high 18. She also unofficially had six rebounds.
Kieffer narrowly missed another double-double, unofficially snaring 11 caroms while netting nine points. She also unofficially had a team-high four assists.
Powered mostly by Keithley, CHS was 13 of 16 at the free-throw stripe.
Topping Park Hill’s scoring was Townsend with eight points. Three others had six each.
Unofficially, Chillicothe out-rebounded PHHS 30-19