Will face hosts in BIshop LeBlond Holiday Tournament third-place game Monday at 5:30 after 78-60 defeat by Kansas City squad Saturday (Dec. 28, 2019)
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — The Chillicothe (Mo.) HS basketball Hornets spent essentially three quarters of their Saturday evening game playing 2018-19 Class 3 state quarterfinalist St. Michael the Archangel to a standoff. The other eight minutes of action, however, produced a decisive victory for the Guardians from Kansas City.
St. Michael scored inside, outside, and from the free-throw line to seize a 10-0 lead in the first 2:10 and had a 17-4 lead before 4-1/2 minutes had elapsed, propelling the Guardians toward an eventual 78-60 victory in the champ;ionship semifinals of the Bishop LeBlond Holiday Tournament.
The loss shifts Chillicothe (5-3) to the tourney’s third-place game at 5:30 p.m. Monday. Their opponent will be the host Golden Eagles, who fell to East Buchanan 64-38 in Saturday’s later boys’ semifinal.
While the Hornets tumbled into a big hole early in Saturday’s game, by finding their equilibrium, they kept a successful comeback a viable scenario until the final few minutes.
“Our guys adjusted to the speed of the game and did a lot of good things,” Tim Cool, Chillicothe head coach, said in a post-game broadcast interview.
With an 8-0 burst of their own in the first 2:10 of the seoond period, they reduced their 22-9 deficit after one stanza to five and forced St. Michael the Archangel head coach and Breckenridge native Mark Scanlon to take a momentum-blunting timeout.
Even after the Guardians (5-2) closed the opening half and initiated the second with a 12-2 run that mushroomed the gap to 42-25, Chillicothe didn’t flinch. SIx CHS points from three combined deuces by top guns C.J. Pfaff and Westley Brandsgaard in less than 50 seconds produced the first of four occasions in the last 3-1/2 minutes of the third period in which St. Michael’s margin stood at a still-erasable 10 points.
Another Guardians bid to put its looming win on ice left it on top by 18 inside the first two minutes of the final frame, but by the time another minute had elapsed, five tallies from the We. Brandsgaard/Pfaff combo left CHS trailing by the same 13 points it had been almost three full quarters earlier.
While there still was time enough to make St. Michael the Archangel sweat some more and test its nerves, the Hornets could not fashion another flurry in the remaining time. When Cool shifted his team into a quick-fouling strategy to try to get some advantageous points trades while the clock was moving only haltingly, the Kansas City team shot free throws and defended well enough to keep the Hornets at more than arm’s length down the stretch.
Statistically, Chillicothe got 25 points from Pfaff and 18 from We. Brandsgaard. Junior Mason Baxter had an outstanding second quarter, netting four deuces, but was in enough foul trouble that his playing time over the final 19 minutes was limited and he did no other scoring.
For St. Michael the Archangel, which hit more 3-points shots (12) than 2-points (11) and got them from five different players, 6’5” senior Ben Palacios’ 21 points led the way. Lawrence Roccero added 15, including four treys, while fellow starters Anthony Holden and Michael Haggerty and reserve guard Makai Galbreath tossed in 11 apiece. The fifth Guardians starter, 6’6” Deuce Roberts, added nine more.
“They shoot it really well,” the Chillicothe coach saluted his team’s conquerors. “We knew that coming in. … I thought (Galbreath) and (Roccero) shot it better than I thought they probably could” after scouting them the previous night.
With only their two most-veteran players – We. Brandsgaard and Pfaff – getting attempts, the Hornets did capitalize well on their own free-throw chances, sinking 14 of 18 tries.
Chillicothe also did good job of rebounding in the fast-paced game, yanking down 35, including 11 on the offensive end. Four Hornets – starters Bradley Riley (7), Pfaff (6), and Hayden Simmer (5) and freshman reserve guard Griff Bonderer (6) – had at least five apiece.
“We rebounded it really well,” Cool affirmed, before expanding on the mental discipline it took for his players to do that in a game they trailed by double digits most of the way.
“Rebounding and getting back on defense (against a fast-breaking opponent) and getting stops in transition – they’ve got to play really hard and really smart,” the coach detailed, “and I thought our defensive transition was pretty good. We had a couple of turnovers that turned into layups, but not a lot.”