Ahead of Lexington 14-9 in the first minute of the second quarter of their Class 3 District 14 Tournament quarterfinal game Feb. 19, 2019, CHS avalanche powere it to 14th win of year, 63-25
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
HIGGINSVILLE Mo. — Despite initial shooting and ballhandling difficulties and the absence of a couple of would-be starters, the underdog Lexington Minutemen put themselves within five points of the favored Chillicothe High School basketball Hornets, when Tannor Kaullon, their point guard, used a high screen to launch a successful 3-points shot 16 seconds into the second quarter of their Class 3 District 14 Tournament quarterfinal game Tuesday.
Then the Hornets scored and, after a 2-1/2-minutes lag, scored and scored and scored some more.
Ahead 16-9 with 4-1/2 minutes remaining in the first half, the Hornets unleashed a pre-snowstorm blizzard of baskets, adding 23 more unanswered tallies to their total before halftime and then the first five of the second half. Those 30-uninterrupted tallies in a span of just over 11-1/2 minutes headlined what concluded as a 63-25 triumph for the Hornets (14-10), who advanced to the district semifinals against Richmond (18-6) Thursday at 7 p.m.
Richmond, which has taken seven in a row since a hard-to-fathom 29-points loss to Trenton Jan. 21, defeated Carrollton 45-29 in Tuesday’s other game in the Lafayette County Middle School gym, while, in the other half of the bracket, top-seeded Concordia: St. Paul Lutheran buried Brookfield 85-55 and Trenton fought off the host Huskers of Higginsville 47-40.
The state-qualifying tournament is due to have its two girls’ semifinal games Wednesday, including second-seeded Chillicothe meeting third seed Lexington at about 7 p.m. Naturally, for the 2018-19 season, that game and the preceding Trenton-Brookfield clash of teams guided by former Carroll-Livingston Activity Association coaching rivals Brian Upton of THS (formerly at Southwest Livingston) and Tony Fairchild of BHS (formerly at Meadville) were at the mercy of the weather overnight Tuesday night/Wednesday morning.
Tuesday’s Chillicothe-Lexington meeting figured to tip the way of the second-seeded Hornets from the larger school anyway, but, according to CHS head coach Tim Cool, the underdog Minutemen played without a couple of their regulars to skew things even more dramatically to the Hornets.
Chillicothe assumed the lead four seconds into the action as point guard C.J. Pfaff directed the opening tip to Hunter Swift in the CHS forecourt and, in a planned sequence, he turned and sent a pass to Bradley Riley racing to the basket from the left wing. Riley’s unfettered layup put the Hornets in front and there they remained until the final buzzer.
CHS went on to seize a 6-0 lead in the first 2:20 as Pfaff made a steal on the Lexington end and took it to the rim on the other before weaving down the left edge of the lane for a 4-footer.
Over the next six minutes, the understaffed Minutemen actually had a slight edge on the scoreboard, thanks to Kaullon’s triple that made it 14-9 seconds into quarter No. 2.
Then the roof caved in on Lexington.
A half-minute after that, CHS sophomore Mason Baxter, who left the game with 3:13 remaining in the third quarter when he seemingly sprained his right ankle as he landed from going up for a point-blank basket, made a steal and took it in for a layup.
When the Hornets did not score again for nearly three minutes, that Baxter deuce seemed unremarkable, but it turned out to be the humble beginning of something very big.
Commencing with 4:25 to go in the opening half when Westley Brandsgaard sank two free throws, Chillicothe scored on every possession the rest of the half – and there were plenty of them.
Junior Pfaff was almost omnipresent at the offensive end, following Brandsgaard’s foul shots with another steal at the Lexington end and long drive for a layup. Next time upcourt, he took Eli Cross’ pass and sank a left-wing trey before stealing the ball yet again and going about 55 feet for the layup.
After sophomore reserve guard Hayden Simmer stuck a teammate’s miss back in from the weak side, Pfaff went deep from the right wing twice in 23 seconds, the latter on the second of Cross’ team-high three assists.
That made it 21 consecutive tallies for Chillicothe with 42 seconds to go in the opening half, but Cross and Pfaff weren’t quite finished.
After working the clock down some, Lexington launched a shot that missed with about 10 seconds remaining. The 5’8” Cross collected the rebound near the backcourt baseline and quickly started upcourt on the dribble. When no one had forced him to veer off his path as he reached midcourt, he put his head down and accelerated toward the basket. Although a couple of defenders finally tried to intercept him, he managed to underhand a shot up and in from the right side with four seconds on the clock.
Half over, right, with a 37-9 lead for CHS? Not on this night.
Absentmindedly, a Lexington player caught the ball as it dropped through the net on Cross’ shot and, despite there being no point to it with only three seconds on the ticking clock, attempted an inbounds pass to a teammate about 10 feet away.
His basketball “smarts” anticipating such a move, Pfaff had “hidden” himself behind the intended recipient of the pass until the ball was thrown. Then, he easily stepped around the flat-footed Minuteman, caught the ball at the offensive right edge of the lane, and, with a second still on the clock, underhanded a layup off the window and through the net for a 30-points spread at intermission.
That last basket incredibly gave Pfaff 10 points in the last 95 seconds of the half, 15 in the last 3:20, 17 in the final four minutes, and 21 markers for the opening two periods. Understandably, with the game far out of hand at that point, he took only a shot or two after halftime.
That didn’t mean Chillicothe stopped scoring, though.
Once action resumed in the third frame, the Hornets continued adding to their unbroken chain of points.
Two Riley free throws, Hunter Swift’s lay-in off a Baxter setup, and a Brandsgaard charity toss at the 4:30 mark of the stanza raised the run to 35 consecutive tallies before Lexington’s Kaullon, fittingly, bookended the incredible stretch with another trifecta.
When Baxter, on a seemingly-innocuous lay-in basket a minute later, came away with an injury which figures to make him unavailable for the rest of the tournament, CHS head coach Tim Cool quickly removed his top two players – Pfaff and Brandsgaard – to safeguard them.
That leveled the playing court to a degree, but mostly reserves still gave the Hornets the better of the last 10-plus minutes by a 17-12 margin.
To the delight of their teammates and CHS fans in attendance, two sparingly-used Hornets seniors who had combined for two points all season tacked on eight more in one game. Guard Matt Anthony tallied his first-ever varsity points when he cashed in Cross’ last assist for three points from right of the key with 1:13 to go in the third period. Then, inside the last two minutes, post player Matt Smith, who had two points in five previous game appearances this season, drifted out to the right corner and swished a 3-pointer before also scoring from just below the right block for a 5-points night and the game’s last scoring.
Statistically, Pfaff’s 21 points surprisingly represented CHS’ only twin-figures individual total. He also made six steals.
Nine other Hornets got on the scoresheet and, while not a scorer, sophomore forward Dalton Ripley, who’ll likely be needed to add frontcourt depth next season. did make his varsity debut in the last couple of minutes.
Kaullon ended up generating 18 of 9-13 Lexington’s 25 points.