With 11-0 and 10-0 stretches in first half and 8-0 and two 9-0 runs in second half, top seed posted 63-28 triumph over St. Joseph: Bishop LeBlond
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
CAMERON, Mo. — Chillicothe HS’ basketball Lady Hornets overcame a 4-0 deficit they faced nearly four minutes into the contest with four 3-pointers in the last 4-plus minutes of the opening quarter en route to overpowering St. Joseph: Bishop LeBlond 63-28 Monday night (Jan. 21) in the opening game of the 2019 Cameron Invitational Tournament.
Ahead 14-9 after one stanza and 29-15 at halftime after a 15-3 surge in the middle of the second quarter, the Lady Hornets (13-4) ran their lead out to as many as 36 points with a pair of 9-0 runs and an 8-0 stretch during the final 16 minutes.
With the win, the 3-times defending champions moved into the girls’ championship semifinal scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday. The Lady Hornets will meet Maryville for a spot in the third tourney-title game of this season after MHS’ Lady Spoofhounds out-distanced Higginsville 64-47 Monday.
In the other half of the bracket, Smithville, seeded second to CHS, crushed Excelsior Springs 54-9 and Lawson eventually slid by host Cameron 41-30.
For Chillicothe, Monday’s triumph over Bishop LeBlond (2-15) was more like what was expected than their early-January encounter at St. Joseph. That game was tied early in the fourth quarter before the Lady Hornets prevailed by only nine.
It took a bit of time for Chillicothe to establish its dominance and virtually no time for the St. Joseph Catholic school’s squad to hint that this second meeting might unfold like the first.
Although CHS’ Kennedie Kieffer directed the opening tip backward, it went over the head of teammate Hunter Keithley and BLHS’ Olivia Elliott not only won the race to it, but also to the basket, sinking a point-blank shot from the left side only three seconds into the game.
That score did not change for more than three minutes as Chillicothe missed several shots and had a turnover or two.
When some more points were put up, they came from the Lady Golden Eagles’ Elliott again, the sophomore guard driving the right edge of the lane and stepping inside a defender near the block to bank home a layup with 4:35 on the clock.
In barely a half-minute, that scant 4-0 Bishop LeBlond lead vanished, never to reappear.
Ten seconds after Elliott’s second deuce, a too-slow shift by the Lady Golden Eagles in their 2-3 zone allowed a simple pass by Jordan Hibner to reach Keithley with no defender near her. Setting her feet outside the arc between the wing and the corner, the CHS junior rippled the twine for a trifecta that drew her team within one.
Only 25 seconds later, the same scenario played out again and, as Keithley’s second trey of the night splashed home at the exact mid-point of the first frame, Chillicothe had the lead for good.
The two long-range shots became part of two extended stretches of uninterrupted CHS scoring in the first half.
Hibner netted her own triple from right of the key off Magy Thomas’ pass from the right wing before Kieffer took Hibner’s routine pass at the high post and turned and popped home a 15-feet jumper. That completed an 11-0 Chillicothe streak in exactly three minutes’ time.
In the second quarter, a Maggie Pfaff 12-footer from the paint and Kieffer’s three-points play pushed the No. 1 seed ahead 19-10.
After Bishop LeBlond countered with a deuce on a press-break drive and a free throw, the Lady Hornets once again uncorked a double-digits surge of continuous points.
Kieffer began it by converting a Catey Trout pass into a 4-footer from the lane before Hibner stepped to center stage.
The junior guard, in a bit of a slump the past week or two, turned her steal at the BLHS foul line into a layup at the other end, then connected on her third and fourth triples of the night. That completed a 10-0 Chillicothe spurt which left it in front 29-11 two minutes before halftime.
CHS’ 8-0 run in the third stanza sent the spread beyond 20 points, where it remained. That stretch included the first of four second-half field goals by senior Laney Gaston as she pulled up for a short, left-handed jumper in the lane after getting a pass at the foul line.
Although left hand dominant, Gaston showed her capacity for ambidexterity later in the third quarter and again in the fourth with a righty runner in the lane from 10 feet and a 12-footer in the paint with her right hand again in the fourth.
She capped her second-half show by getting a left-handed, right-wing 3-pointer to bounce around the soft Cameron rim and fall through with just over 2-1/2 minutes left in the game.
Statistically, Chillicothe’s scoring was led by Kieffer’s 15 points. Hibner was hot on her heels with 14 and Keithley netted 11.
Paced by Gaston’s nine in the last half, Lady Hornets reserves – for a second game in a row – contributed 19 points to the winning cause. Again, five separate players were involved, two of them freshmen.
Bishop LeBlond did not have a double-digits scorer. Elliott was high girl with seven points.
In Monday’s other girls’ quarterfinal contests, Maryville sophomore star Serena Sundell fired in 17 points in each half, including 15 in the final quarter after Higginsville surprisingly cut a 35-19 halftime deficit to only seven points after three stanzas.
In addition to Sundell’s 34, another 10th grader, Emily Cassevaugh popped in 11 to help set up the clash with Chillicothe. Higginsville, which will be in the same district tournament as Chillicothe in about a month, received 20 tallies from senior guard Rachel Rumsey and 10 from classmate Sandra Welborn.
Smithville steamrolled Excelsior Springs behind a balanced attack paced by Lexi Moes’ 13 markers. Cristina Walsh and Emma Chevalier hit for 10 apiece, all three out-scoring ESHS singlehandedly.
Lawson’s third-seeded squad trailed the tourney hosts 18-16 before coming on to win by 11.
Point guard Taylor Dolt’s 23 tallies led the Lady Cardinals. Eight Lady Dragons joined in Cameron’s scoring, which was topped by Sydney Nichols’ seven.