Lady Hornets pull away in second, third quarters on way to 60-40 Midland Empire Conference win Feb. 8, 2019. Sluggish Hornets can't hold fourth-quarter lead, lose 39-35 in overtime
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
SAVANNAH, Mo. — While the Chillicothe (Mo.) HS basketball Lady Hornets got any rust they’d accumulated during an unusual late-season week of weather-triggered relative inactivity, the Hornets, still adapting to one, key, long-term absence and a couple of temporary ones, never could keep their offense in gear Friday (Feb. 8, 2019) as CHS split a Midland Empire Conference doubleheader with host Savannah.
The Lady Hornets (15-7, 2-2 conf.) outpointed the Lady Savages by 10 points in each half as they prevailed 60-40 in the opener. The Hornets (12-9, 2-3) followed with a 39-35 overtime loss as the offense skidded into a ditch in the last six minutes or so.
Savannah came after the CHS girls aggressively, particularly on defense, and was right in the thick of things early in the second quarter. However, the Lady Hornets both improved their defense and their goard work at that end of the court as the first half progressed.
The result was a 9:17 scoreless stretch for the hosts through the last half of the second stanza and first half of the third. During that time, Chillicothe buried some open outside shots to start opening some daylight before intermission and then, with SHS more perimeter-conscious defensively, repeatedly found 6’ senior post player Kennedie Kieffer for short-range hoops in the third. The Lady Hornets netted the last seven points of the first half and first eight of the second to assume a 36-18 lead that essentially clinched their win
Once Chillicothe took command and held it, both CHS head coach Darren Smith and SHS head coach Aaron Cooper opted to use deeper reserves to cover the last five or six minutes or more. All 18 CHS points in the last frame came from reserves as, all told, a dozen Lady Hornets got on the scoresheet.
Statistically, Kieffer’s 13 points – 11 of which came in the third quarter after absorbing a very hard foul in the first minute of the segment – paced the Lady Hornets’ scoring. She also secured six rebounds.
Hunter Keithley, despite sitting out most of the last stanza, combined 10 points with seven rebounds and six assists. CHS had 16 assists overall, compared to only six by the Lady Savages.
Savannah (11-9, 2-2 conf.) was led in scoring by freshman Olivia Stites’ seven tallies
The boys’ game – not surprisingly, given both sides’ patient offensive approach and overall limited firepower – unfolded at low-scoring pace and never deviated from it.
Each team was more effective at causing turnovers on defense that putting the ball in the net on offense. Unofficially, each team gave the ball away 18 times, those 36 turnovers a full one-third more than the 27 total baskets they generated.
Chillicothe’s struggles are partially understandable.
It lost its only thing resembling an experienced and skilled post player last week when senior Peyton Forck sustained a broken great toe and also has a couple of depth guards still out for disciplinary reasons for a few games.
Without them, remaining players shuffled into different spots in the offensive set still are feeling their way through their adjusted roles in the offense, resulting in periodic stagnation. In addition, everyone is handling more minutes of playing time, likely increasing the fatigue factor late in games.
Although neither side was lighting up the scoreboard, Savannah (9-8, 2-1 conf.) eased away to an 18-10 lead just over two minutes into the second period. However, the Savages would score no more in the final 5:40 of the opening half, although Chillicothe only made up part of that gap and reached intermission still trailing, 18-16.
After the home team netted a foul shot to begin the third-quarter scoring, the Hornets had another 6-0 mini-run, pushing them ahead for the first time at 22-19 on Westley Brandsgaard’s trey at the 4:19 mark of the third frame.
Savannah finally scored its first field goal in nearly 10 minutes when, breaking a press the first time Chillicothe tried it, Blayne Nelson buried a trey at mid-period.
Neither side scored for the next two minutes before Savannah reclaimed the upper hand with a deuce from the left baseline with two minutes remaining in the third stanza.
Chillicothe countered with its most-effective offense stretch of the night, using a string of seven consecutive tallies on a Brandsgaard free throw, Brad Riley layup off a C.J. Pfaff steal, a Mason Baxter inside lay-in off a Pfaff pass, and Pfaff’s press-breaking, end-to-end driving layup. With 6:10 to go, the Hornets were up 29-24.
That changed in less than three minutes as Savannah came up with its own 7-0 surge to regain a 2-points lead with 3:36 left.
Chillicothe countered with Hunter Swift’s lay-in off Pfaff’s pass after shredding the SHS press and Brandsgaard’s tiebreaking, left-baseline 8-footer with 2:08 on the clock.
The Hornets would not score again in regulation time and added only two Pfaff free throws the rest of the game.
Savannah tied the game at 33-all with 48.5 seconds left and, despite plenty of time to create a good shot before the fourth-period horn, all Chillicothe got away was a shot from nearly 30 feet away with about four seconds to go that was far off.
After Pfaff’s OT free throws tied the game at 35 with 1:37 left, Savannah soon scored on senior Kris Rudell’s 10-feet jumper from right of the lane off a baseline inbounds play.
Chillicothe turned the ball over at the other end, mishandling a pass that looked like it would set up a mostly-unguarded, point-blank shot, and, after several CHS fouls, Savannah went to the free-throw line for the 1-and-1 with 42 seconds left and Rudel hit both tries. Even though the Savages twice subsequently missed on the front end of bonus situations, the Hornets’ out-of-sync attack produced only a turnover and a couple of long, low-percentage shots before time ran out.
Statistically, Rudel’s 12 points topped the Savages. Pfaff finished with a game-high 14 for CHS, but Brandsgaard was limited to 10 and no other Hornet had more than four. Chillicothe did not get any points from its bench, only two players of which were used, one for only a couple of minutes and the other of whom probably played not much over five minutes total.