Outduel seasoned Hamilton: Penney 61-51 at home, hitting 12 treys in 2019-20 debut

CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — Having promised a more-frenetic pace of play in the 2019-20 season, Chillicothe (Mo.) HS basketball Lady Hornets head coach Darren Smith’s players delivered on that vow in Tuesday’s (Nov. 26) season debut, so much so that the light fog which had settled over Chillicothe prior to the team’s home game against Hamilton: Penney was swept right out of town, revealing a 61-51 CHS conquest.

“I like what we did,” Darren Smith, Chillicothe sixth-year head coach, assessed in a post-game broadcast interview. “… It wasn’t perfect, but a lot of it was exactly what we’re going to try to do this year, which is go fast and speed you up. I thought we did a pretty good job of that.”

Applying baseline-to-baseline defensive pressure on the ball from virtually the opening tip to the final buzzer, Chillicothe harried and hurried a savvy, solid Hamilton squad which returned its full starting lineup from a 16-7 ’18-’19 campaign into 19 turnovers, by C-T count.

That pace, while it unofficially contributed to 18 giveaways by the home team, led – as designed – to many inside scoring chances in transition, as well as lots of good perimeter “looks” that Chillicothe cashed in on repeatedly.

“I think we caused more turnovers or more trouble than we gave up (points),” Smith shrugged.

Receiving a dozen 3-pointers from a half-dozen sources while unofficially shooting 55 percent from beyond the arc, Chillicothe never trailed in the battle of Lady Hornets.

The contest was tied only twice after CHS sophomore guard Lucy Reeter tallied the season’s first points only 15 seconds in. The last time Hamilton had Chillicothe matched was when Graycen Prothero sank two free throws to knot the score at 6-6 with 4:03 left in the opening stanza.

When sophomore forward Essie Hicks dropped in a 15-foot baseline jumper at the 2:37 mark off one of senior reserve guard Haley Kidd’s unofficial four first-half assists, CHS was in front for keeps.

Flashing its veteran form, Hamilton kept nipping at Chillicothe’s heels until the final 2:20 when Chillicothe uncorked an 11-5 finishing flurry to win by double digits.

With five sources supplying seven triples, including three by senior third-year starter Hunter Keithley, Chillicothe went to the locker room at halftime with a 28-21 advantage.

However, after CHS freshman starting point guard Jessica Reeter finished with a left-handed layup off Keithley’s setup a half-minute into the last half, Hamilton went on a 13-5 surge. Prothero’s turnaround 5-footer from the right block drew the visitors within 35-34 with 1:12 remaining in the third frame.

Unfazed, Chillicothe responded with a Jordan Hibner trey from the top of the key – off another Keithley setup – and Keithley’s transition driving score to make it 40-34 going to the fourth.

A defensive-end pass theft and breakaway layup by Brighton Swindler just over 2-1/2 minutes into the last segment again made it a 1-possession game at 43-41, only to have Chillicothe quickly counter with a short Keithley left-baseline drive for a deuce. Hamilton would not again possess the ball with a chance to draw even or lead.

Switching to its “layup” offense after Hamilton senior star guard Nora Ford swished a 22-footer from the right side to make it 50-46 with still 2:42 remaining, Chillicothe executed it very well, creating a short Hicks shot from the left side that began the closing run.

Statistically, Chillicothe had four players net nine or more points, paced by Keithley’s 16. She knocked down four treys.

Even with the hurry-up pace, frosh Je. Reeter looked totally at ease in starting the opening game of her high school career, combining two deuces with two treys and going a perfect four of four at the free-throw stripe. Her 14 total points hint that she could follow in the big footsteps of her mother Julia and maternal aunt Beth Hinkebein.

In the mid-to-late 1980s, her mom amassed 1,088 career points – still No. 10 on the program’s all-time list, including a 490-points, 371-rebounds senior year. Those senior totals are No. 5 on CHS’ single-season scoring chart and No. 1 for rebounds. She also ranks No. 1 in career rebounds, while standing No. 3 in both single-season and career scoring averages.

A handful of years after her older sister graduated, Beth Hinkebein emerged as a high-scoring guard, pumping in 1,171 career points – fifth-most in Lady Hornets annals. Her senior season, she netted 449 points, seventh-most in team history, before going on to play with distinction collegiately.

Joining Keithley and Je. Reeter in dual-digits scoring was Hicks with 11. Hibner had nine, all on treys, as she moved within 16 of Hannah Jones’ CHS career record for 3-pointers.

Fine passing facilitated the unofficial 11-of-20 long-range Chillicothe sniping. Unofficially, Kidd and Keithley earned four assists each and Je. Reeter three as 17 of the 22 CHS field goals were linked to setups.

Unofficially, CHS’ leading rebounder in its opener was backup guard Selby Miller with five.

Citing early fouls as the biggest shortfall he saw from his team’s constant-pressure defense in the opener, the Chillicothe coach stated, “The biggest thing we’ve got to fix is we can’t be fouling out of it so much.”

Hamilton ably demonstrated its own depth of offensive weaponry with three twin-figures scorers and another with seven points. Nailing four trifectas, Ford matched Keithley’s game-high 16 points. Prothero provided 11, Somers Finch 10, and Jessica Richman seven.

“I think that’s a team we’re going to see do really well,” Smith lauded Tuesday’s victim. “They’ve got a lot of really good ‘pieces,’ starting with their point guard Nora Ford. She’s quite a player.”

The Chillicothe varsity girls now move into the Savannah Invitational Tournament. Their first game there will be at 4:30 p.m. against Smithville, a club with which it split two games a year ago.

“We’ll go Monday night and see how things play out,” Smith related, admitting he’d done zero research on who the Lady Warriors might have returning this season.

Hamilton likewise will test itself sternly again in its next action. It will visit Mercer next Thursday.

Tuesday’s varsity game followed a shocking junior-varsity contest Chillicothe unexpectedly claimed with a shutout – 42-0. For CHS, Kaylee Munson tallied 10 points, Cali Burkhardt nine (all on fourth-quarter treys), Sophia Luetticke eight, and Bre Pithan seven.