With only C.J. Pfaff, who racked up 23 points, scoring more than one field goal, Hornets finish 14-10 season with 38-35 district-tournament loss to Richmond Thursday (Feb. 21)
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
HIGGINSVILLE, Mo. — The Chillicothe (Mo.) HS basketball Hornets somehow managed to win one game in their 2018-19 season in which they literally had only two players score.
Thursday night, in the Class 3 District 14 Tournament semifinals, they effectively, if unintentionally, tried to push that envelope further with one player accounting for 23 of their 35 tallies, but paid the ultimate price – the end of their campaign.
Appropriately, on a night when Richmond metaphorically tied one of Chillicothe’s two scoring “arms” behind its back, the game ended with the combination of tough Richmond Spartans defense and flawed execution by the CHS offense resulting in the Hornets, having possession with a half-minute to play in regulation time and trailing by three points, never got a shot to the rim and absorbed a frustrating 38-35 defeat.
Despite twice calling timeouts in the last 30 seconds, the only attempt at a shot Chillicothe managed was blocked. Even with a final reprieve when senior Hunter Swift won the desperation scramble for the carom of that block, allowing for the second of the timeouts with three ticks left on the clock, the Hornets misstepped, the ball slipping through the hands of the player intended to attempt a would-be tying trey with just under two seconds to go.
The loss terminated the Chillicothe boys’ season with a 14-11 mark, including a dismaying 6-9 ledger after Dec. 27.
Richmond (17-8) advanced to Friday night’s title game against top-heavy favorite Concordia: St. Paul Lutheran, which has not lost since dropping its season opener Nov. 16. Nothing either Richmond or Chillicothe showed in the district tourney’s first two rounds suggested either would be a threat to upset SPL’s Saints.
On Feb. 1 at St. Joseph, Chillicothe had pulled off a bit of a Houdini act by, with only junior standouts Westley Brandsgaard and C.J. Pfaff scoring, defeating host Benton in a game that, like Thursday’s, saw both sides score only in the 30s (39–32).
Richmond pestered Brandsgaard on the perimeter and swarmed him with multiple defenders whenever he either drove to the paint or got the ball on a post-up, resulting in the junior, who surpassed 1,000 points in his career two games before, scoring only five points. When no other CHS player besides Pfaff stepped forward to make the Spartans pay for that focus on Brandsgaard, the Hornets were vulnerable and eventually vanquished.
Pfaff almost single-handedly carried Chillicothe to the doorstep of survival, scoring inside and out to produce its first 15 points of the second half. When he followed a 3-pointer from near the key in the final minute of the third period with a defensive-end steal and transition layup in the first minute of the fourth, he had converted a 19-16 deficit in the opening minute of the second half into a 30-23 CHS lead.
After Swift netted one of two free throws with 4:55 remaining, Pfaff used a stop-and-go drive along the left baseline to net his 22nd and 23rd points of the game, giving the Hornets a 5-points lead, 33-28, at the mid-point of the last segment.
However, Richmond, which had scored only two baskets in a stretch of over 15 minutes from the middle of the second period to early in the fourth, erased that spread on a trey by Dionte Marquez and, after Chillicothe failed to control a would-be defensive rebound, a left-wing triple by sophomore Wyatt Covey. Covey’s only points of the game came with 2:20 left and put the Spartans on top to stay.
When Marquez scooped in a driving 11-footer with 1:28 to play, RHS led by three. The Hornets’ only second-half bucket by someone other than Pfaff came from short range from sophomore backup guard Hayden Simmer with 1:10 remaining, but that proved to be the last CHS points of the season.
The game started streakily.
Richmond put up the first eight points, only to see Pfaff foreshadow the Chillicothe offensive storyline of the night by sandwiching a triple with two deuces. When backup guard Eli Cross caught Richmond over-concentrating on Brandsgaard to drive and score a right-side layup, the Hornets had netted nine consecutive points for a 9-8 lead.
With CHS on top 11-10 after one stanza, a sleepwalk of a second segment generated only five scoring plays and 13 combined points, eight of which belonged to the third-seeded Spartans. With Chillicothe not scoring from the floor in the last 7:10 of the half, getting only two points of any kind in that span, and neither side adding to its total in the last 4:15, intermission arrived with Richmond in front, 18-16.
Pfaff’s personal 9-2 run in a 3-1/2-minutes stretch of the third period restored the Hornets to the lead at 25-21 and his trey and deuce bridging the break between the third and fourth quarters widened the CHS margin to seven, but it would not be enough.
Statistically, Pfaff’s 23 points led all scorers and his eight rebounds, at least three steals, and three shot blocks were team highs. No other CHS player had more than one basket.
For the winning Spartans, Marquez tallied 18 points, but was supported by Swafford’s nine.
Chillicothe, which was without regular starting guard Mason Baxter, due to an ankle sprain suffered in its first-round win Tuesday, hurt itself significantly by committing 17 turnovers, compared to only 10 by RHS.