Top Smithville 56-49 in Savannah tourney opener despite slow start Monday (Dec. 2, 2019), improving to 2-0

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
SAVANNAH, Mo. — Despite finding themselves in a 9-0 hole less than three minutes into their Savannah Invitational Tournament first-round game against Smithville Monday (Dec. 2, 2019), the Chillicothe (Mo.) HS basketball Lady Hornets stayed calm and collected – their veteran holdovers able to remember being in much the same situation against the same team last year and rallying to win on a neutral court, while the new varsity-team members could understand that there still was about 10 times the amount of elapsed time still to be played.
That lack of panic was rewarded in fairly short order as Chillicothe drew within a point by the end of the first stanza, took its first lead 90 seconds into the second, and eventually battled its way past the Lady Warriors 56-49 to improve to 2-0.
“They did that to us at NCMC last year,” CHS coach Darren Smith related in a post-game broadcast interview. “… They came out and punched us in the mouth for 10 or 11 before we ever started playing.
“It wasn’t the same type of situation (Monday). They came out and made some shots and we came out and didn’t – we settled just a little bit for 3s, which is okay because we’re going to shoot a lot of them this year.”
The Lady Hornets coach credited early subs Haley Kidd, Clara Leamer, and Selby Miller with helping right the ship.
“Once I brought in Clara, Selby, and Haley, I thought they did a really good job of working that press and getting some turnovers and we caught back up there at the end of the first quarter,” Smith recalled.
Monday’s victory pushed the Lady Hornets, whose two early triumphs have come against quality opponents, to the championship side of the 7-teams tournament’s bracket. They’ll face either defending tourney champion Independence: William Chrisman or host Savannah in a Thursday 8:30 pm. semifinal.
With those teams not meeting until Tuesday night, Smith had only the skimpiest of scouting reports.
“They had a really good team last year,” he recalled of Chrisman, who downed Chillicothe in the championship game a year ago. “… They had a couple of really nice players.”
Of Savannah, he related, “I know they lost two or three of their starters, kind of like everybody else did.”
Once Chillicothe got squared away and on even terms, the game stayed close until Smithville lost some of its offensive and press-breaking sharpness – likely through fatigue –  and the Lady Hornets, who applied backcourt defensive pressure while pushing the ball upcourt aggressively throughout, effectively executed their clock-eating offense well.
“Our hope is that, (at) the pace that we’re going, by the middle of the third quarter to the fourth quarter, the other team’s starting to wear down a little bit,” Smith noted.
Ahead by two points after three quarters, the Lady Hornets established their third multi-possessions lead when freshman Jessica Reeter triggered quickly from the right side off Jordan Hibner’s pass. Her third trey of the game – she also started Chillicothe’s recovery from the 9-0 deficit with a triple – made it 48-42 with 5:06 remaining and Smithville never again possessed the ball with a chance to tie.
Out of the delay game, an Essie Hicks bucket, two Hibner free throws, and a Je. Reeter foul shot – each about a minute apart – melded with strong defense at the other end of the floor to turn a 4-points lead into a 9-points spread with a minute left that effectively cemented the victory.
“Jessie Reeter really stepped up big from that point-guard spot, because they put pressure on her all night long,” saluted Smith. “She had two or three ‘freshman’ moments, but I thought she really stepped up.”
Statistically, frosh Je. Reeter led Chillicothe’s well-shared scoring with 15 points. Hunter Keithley chipped in 13 and Jordan Hibner 11. Lucy Reeter narrowly missed twin digits, netting nine points.
Smithville 6’ junior Christina Walsh popped in a game-high 16 markers, mostly on short-range shots. Emma Chevalier and reserve Allie Andrews added nine each.
Keithley unofficially earned five assists – all before halftime – and L. Reeter matched Hicks for the team lead in rebounds with four. Smithville unofficially out-rebounded the Lady Hornets 30-20, including snaring 10 off the offensive glass.
Both teams had plenty of turnovers – 22 for SHS and 19 for CHS, unofficially.