Basketball Lady Hornets' second-half rallies fall short in 43-40 loss to Smithville Friday, Dec. 27, 2019

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
TRENTON, Mo. — A school-record-breaking shooting performance nearly helped fuel an against-the-odds victory for the Chillicothe (Mo.) basketball Lady Hornets Friday afternoon.
Senior guard Jordan Hibner, who laid claim to CHS’ single-game record for 3-points baskets early in what became her single-season record-snapping 2018-19 season, completed the short remaining journey to the program’s career mark eight games into 2019-20 when she drained a trey from just left of the top of the key with 2:41 left in what settled out as a 43-40 Chillicothe loss to Smithville in the “High School Holiday Hoops” shootout at North Central Missouri College’s Ketcham Community Center.
Hibner’s 133rd triple of the past 2-plus seasons was one of two she hit as part of a 9-2 Lady Hornets surge in a late 3-minutes stretch that left Chillicothe, once down by a dozen late in the first half, behind only 41-40 with 28 seconds remaining.
Smithville then opened the door for what would have been a spine-tingling CHS win in the closing seconds when it missed a free throw on the front end of a 1-and-1 with 20 seconds left. Chillicothe rebounded, but, surprisingly, did not call a timeout to try to arrange a final play, perhaps wary of the difficulty the Lady Warriors’ pseudo-matchup zone defense had given it in the half-court setting.
However, as the clock moved under 10 seconds remaining, a CHS player with the ball near the right sideline picked up her dribble. When no teammates broke toward her to accept a pass, the defensively-pressured player finally flung an off-target pass that rolled out of bounds on the Smithville end of the court with three seconds to go.
With Chillicothe trying to overplay the in-bounds pass on the perimeter for a possible steal and breakaway shot for a last-second win, Smithville wisely threw the ball in toward its basket, where it had sprung a player loose. Gathering the pass in, the Lady Warrior banked an unguarded, point-blank shot off the square to set the final margin at three points.
Chillicothe’s defense twice in the last 90 seconds had caused SHS turnovers – first when Essie Hicks and Haley Kidd double-teamed to force a held ball with the possession arrow favoring CHS and then, after the Lady Hornets failed to capitalize on that opportunity, when Lucy Reeter darted in to steal a sideline in-bounds pass at midcourt and drove to score against two defenders to make it 41-40 with 28 seconds to play.
When Smithville then misfired in the bonus, the stage was set for Chillicothe (4-4) to pull a fifth win out of the season out of the fire in dramatic fashion. Instead, the Lady Hornets, who have yet to face anything other than a solid-quality foe, sank back to .500.
The seeds of the CHS defeat were sown during a lethargic first-half showing. A too-timid offensive mindset, 10 turnovers, and poor defense and rebounding around the Smithville basket conspired to leave the Lady Warriors, who had lost to CHS 56-49 during the Savannah Invitational Tournament about four weeks earlier, possessing a 12-4 lead late in the first quarter and 24-12 advantage three minutes before halftime.
Behind 24-14 at mid-game after L. Reeter hit a right-corner triple for the only scoring of the last three minutes of the first half, Chillicothe trailed 31-22 midway through the third quarter when Hibner caught fire.
In a span of less than two minutes, while Smithville, seemingly showing some fatigue from use of a single substitute to that time, was going scorelsss, Hicks scored on a drive down the left edge of the lane and Hibner buried open 3s twice on the right half of the floor. The second, with 1:38 still to go in the third stanza, made it 31-30, Smithville, and prompted a Lady Warriors timeout.
The stoppage defused Chillicothe’s momentum and Smithville junior Emma Chevalier scored three deuces during an 8-1 recovery spurt that again left Chillicothe down by eight with under six minutes remaining.
Neither side scored for over two minutes before the Lady Hornets began their too-little, too-late closing run.
Statistically, Hibner’s long-range shooting accounted for all of her 15 points, which shared game honors with Chevalier and 6’1” SHS junior post player Christina Walsh. With her late scoring drive, L. Reeter finished with 12 tallies, having hit three triples herself, all from the right corner.
Unofficially, taller Smithville had a 12-4 advantage in offensive rebounds and seven second-chance points to CHS’ one. Also by C-T count, Chillicothe committed six more turnovers in the game.
The Chillicothe girls now will have 11 days between games before hosting struggling Lawson Jan. 7.