Tied with William Chrisman at intermission, Lady Hornets miscues key decisive 13-1 run by Lady Bears, eventual 51-33 defeat in Dec. 5, 2019, Savannah tournament championship semifinal
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
SAVANNAH, Mo. — Deadlocked 22-22, Chillicothe (Mo.) HS’ basketball Lady Hornets looked to be well-positioned at halftime Thursday night (Dec. 5, 2019) to have a strong chance to avenge their 2018 Savannah Invitational Tournament title-game loss to Independence: William Chrisman’s Lady Bears in this year’s semifinals.
Then, in the space of the first three minutes of the second half, the big, strong, skilled foe tore CHS’ hopes to shreds by turning the tables.
With Chillicothe hoping to tire their bulkier opponent out and thus prompt turnovers and declining shooting success that could be converted into transition points, it was William Chrisman which, instead, made key steals and turned them into fast-break points during a 13-1 surge in the first three minutes of the second half that eventually was the foundation of a 51-33 victory for the Independence team.
“I thought we had them right where we wanted them at the end of that first half,” acknowledged Darren Smith, CHS head coach, during a post-game broadcast interview, “because I thought they were tired and we were going at the pace we needed to go at at that point and it just didn’t translate to the second half.”
Instead, twice in the first 70 seconds of the third quarter, WCHS players picked off Chillicothe passes and hurried to the other end of the floor for layups that ignited a Lady Bears’ decisive run.
“What we were doing right there was our turnover was coming (on passes) from the corner back to the top (of the key) and they were getting runouts (breakaway layups) off that,” Smith detailed. “If we’ve got turnovers, I need it to be going toward the baseline.”
In tasting defeat for the first time in 2019-20 after a pair of solid wins, the Lady Hornets (2-1) “earned” games on back-to-back nights. They’ll face a most-familiar foe – Maryville and senior All-Stater Serena Sundell – for third place Friday at 7:30 p.m.
“She’s the whole package,” Smith said of the 6’ or 6’1” Sundell, who can flourish from any spot on the floor. “She can shoot it, she can drive, she can defend, she blocks shots, she rebounds. We need to try to limit her.”
From early appearances, it seems the MHS star has a better supporting cast this season.
“They’ve got some girls to go around her this year, more probably than they’ve had in the past,” assessed the CHS coach.
Given the up-tempo pace at which he believes his team needs to play to be its most-successful, having games against quality opponents on consecutive nights will be a physical challenge for the Lady Hornets, Smith anticipates.
“We’re going to see how well we are in shape, because we’ve played a hard, tough game (against William Chrisman) and we’re going to turn right back around and play another one tomorrow.
Thursday’s CHS-William Chrisman contest could harely have been more even at intermission.
Each side scored 11 points in each of the first two quarters and most of the statistics were comparable. If anything, the Lady Hornets seemed to have a potential edge in that multiple Lady Bears were in serious foul trouble (three) or bordering on it.
Still, Chillicothe had spent much of the second stanza playing from behind, needing a 6-0 finishing flurry over the final 1:50 – two Essie Hicks free throws, one by Hunter Keithley, and a Jessica Reeter left-corner trey – to be tied going to the locker room.
When William Chrisman opened post-intermission play crisply and Chillicothe didn’t, the Lady Bears assumed command and did not relinquish it.
“I knew they’d throw their best shot at us right off the bat (in the third quarter) and I didn’t think we handled it (well),” Smith lamented. “We had three turnovers right there in a row.”
Although 12 behind going to the fourth quarter, the Lady Hornets had plenty of time to come back, twice getting within eight before mid-stanza. However, William Chrisman scored on its next possession on each of those occasions to blunt any CHS momentum before it had much of a chance to build and eventually it scored the last 10 points over the final 3:35 to more than double its lead.
“They’re a tough matchup for us. I knew they would be going in,” Smith declared. “… You’ve got to give them credit. They are really physical and really strong and really tough and deceptively quick and long.”
Statistically, just as in last year’s loss to Chrisman, Chillicothe had difficulty finding the hoop, producing only one double-digits scorer. This time, it was senior Hunter Keithley tallying 10 points, but making only one field goal – a first-quarter trey.
The Lady Hornets netted only eight shots from the floor – four triples and four deuces, while surrendering 19. Of CHS’ eight baskets, seven were accompanied by assists, with Keithley leading there, as well, with three.
Despite the Independence team’s first-half foul straits, each side ended up sinking 10 free throws and no players fouled out.
Unofficially, the teams finished with the same number of total rebounds – 26.
“We rebounded better tonight,” Smith said positively. “I thought that Hunter and Essie (Hicks) both really rebounded the basketball. Essie may not have gotten as many rebounds as you what you’d have wanted her to, but she was boxing that big girl (very sturdy 6’ junior Jacque David) out every time.
“We got a lot of fouls (called on Chrisman) in the first half off of ‘boxing out’ the right way and getting them to come over our backs.”
After unofficially limiting their giveaways to five in the first half, the Lady Hornets had five in the third quarter alone and 14 for the game.
“I thought we did a pretty good job, other than that little spell at the beginning of the second half, of limiting our turnovers,” reflected the CHS coach. “We’re going to have some turnovers; that’s just the way it is. It’s how you have them that we’ve got to cut down.”
The game’s leading scorer was WCHS senior forward Jennifer David, who got 16 – 14 after halftime. Ja. David and Gia Moore provided 10 each.
Maryville is Chillicothe’s third-place game opponent because it was defeated by another metro-area squad, Kansas City: Staley, 49-39, Thursday.
Sundell’s 28 points led all scorers and including sinking 16 of 20 free throws. Staley held her to only two field goals over the last three quarters, but she hit all of her successful foul shots in that span.