After 24-points victory on Bishop LeBlond floor at St. Joseph 11 days earlier, CHS boys nip Golden Eagles 33-32 Thursday (Jan. 9) behind 22 Westley Brandsgaard points
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — When the Chillicothe (Mo.) HS basketball Hornets sailed past Bishop LeBlond’s Golden Eagles 60-36 in the third-place game of the St. Joseph Catholic school’s holiday tournament Dec. 30, the home team was held without a 2-points field goal.
When the Hornets returned to the W.M. “Bill” Grace Gymnasium floor Thursday night (Jan. 9, 2020), Bishop LeBlond did a good bit better, hitting nine deuces to go along with four treys. Had the Golden Eagles made only one more 2-points shot – or if an official’s judgment on a would-be buzzer-beating “3” at the first-period horn, they could have registered a big upset.
Instead, when Chillicothe – leaning almost exclusively on senior fourth-year starter Westley Brandsgaard for its offense with running mate C.J. Pfaff physically subpar, due to illness – shrouded Bishop LeBlond down the stretch, allowing only two points and benefitting from seven BLHS turnovers over the final six minutes, the Hornets escaped with an ugly 33-32 triumph in both clubs’ 2019-20 Midland Empire Conference opener.
Following Isaac Ferguson’s left-corner triple that snapped a 30-30 deadlock with just over six minutes left in the game, the home team was guilty of nine turnovers in the remaining time, scoring only on a close-in shot that proved to be the game’s last points with about 1:45 to go.
Subsequent to that BLHS basket, each team turned the ball over twice – including once apiece in the final 15 seconds, but the opponent did not capitalize.
In a hair-raising final 30 seconds, Bishop LeBlond missed the only shot it attempted in the last 100 seconds – a low-percentage, fadeaway 18-footer, Chillicothe three times missed on the opening attempt of a 1-and-1. The last of those, however, was irrelevant, since it came with only 0.1 second on the clock.
By somehow averting disaster, the CHS boys (8-3, 1-0 conf.) notched a league win and their seventh in the last eight games overall. Bishop LeBlond, which had followed its 24-points loss to the Hornets with a 28-pointer to Falls City, Neb.’s Sacred Heart in last Saturday’s second-annual Steve Vertin Classic at Grace Gymnasium, skidded to 6-7 with a fourth-straight defeat – all on its own court.
The game’s low score was more a function of either both teams’ good defensive or futile offensive play – take your pick – than a deliberate attempt by either kill time.
Given its futility from the field in the previous meeting with Chillicothe – in addition to not hitting any 2-points shots, BLHS sank only six treys, but did drain 18 free throws, Bishop LeBlond tried to utilize better ball and player movement to get Hornets defenders out of position and create better looks at the hoop, whether that took 10-15 seconds or 60 seconds. Chillicothe’s always-solid defensive approach meant there were many more of those extended Golden Eagles searches for shots than shorter ones.
With Chillicothe’s attack and its often-opportunistic defense effectively having one arm tied behind its back by Pfaff’s clearly-diminished energy level – the senior did not start and was given repeated rests throughout the game, the Hornets never displayed the sudden scoring burst that could create some separation on the scoreboard and aid its overall flow.
Instead, the CHS attack was mostly the indomitable inside will and wiggle of Westley.
Brandsgaard, who moved permanently into the CHS starting lineup right about at this point of his freshman year, powered past or corkscrewed around the mostly-shorter and less-physical Bishop LeBlond players for 10 baskets and a game-high 22 points. He supplied all eight of the CHS points in the opening period and 12 of the team’s 16 post-intermission tallies, including – fittingly – what eventually stood as the game-winners with about 3-1/2 minutes remaining.
That nearly-flat-footed shot from near the left block, after faking two defenders off their feet, made it 33-30 about a half-minute after he’d made a steal on the BLHS end and, with a well-timed bounce pass, set up Pfaff for a fast-break layup that erased a 30-29 deficit.
While the Hornets didn’t get off the blazing start that has become a trademark of their season to date, they did have one extended run that – with points at a premium all night – was indispensable in their eventual escape with a victory.
After an apparent successful 3-points shot from the left corner by Golden Eagle Jacob Burri was ruled late by the official whose position near midcourt made him responsible for judging whether it was released before or after time expired – a C-T review of game video, while not including a view of the game clock, revealed the shot seemed to be out of Burri’s hands before the horn was first heard, Bishop LeBlond took only a 10-8 lead into the second stanza.
Jake Korrell’s trifecta for the hosts began the second-quarter scoring and, after Pfaff used a hesitation move to get a clear path to the basket from the right wing for a dunk, a triple from out top by Jeff Johnston with about 4-1/2 minutes to go in the slow-moving period set the game’s widest lead, 16-10.
Johnston’s deep delivery turned out to be Bishop LeBlond’s last field goal and points of the half and its only scoring in a stretch of over nine minutes. In addition, in its aftermath, the St. Joseph team tallied only two points in about the next 10-1/2 minutes.
While Chillicothe didn’t take as much advantage of its suffocating defense in that span as it has on other occasions this season, it still used it to get back ahead for the first time since it led 4-2.
Beginning with a “3” from the top of the key by freshman Griff Bonderer with 4:15 to go in the first half, the Hornets posted a 13-2 surge that left it with them with their largest advantage – five points.
Another stop-and-go slash to the basket by Pfaff, this time from the left wing, put CHS up 17-16 just under 2-1/2 minute before halftime and that’s how things stood when intermission arrived.
Neither club scored in the first two minutes of the second half, either, before Brandsgaard’s right-side lay-in made it nine unanswered points by Chillicothe.
A Bishop LeBlond deuce – its only scoring in its quarter-plus malaise – was balanced by Mason Baxter’s coast-to-coast scoring play that ended with a tough, running 7-footer from right of the lane. Another Brandsgaard low-post power play as he stepped between two defenders to get room to release a short shot gave Chillicothe a 23-18 advantage.
Just as it seemed like the Hornets were ready to pull away, though, they hit a rough patch of their own, going nearly three minutes without scoring. That opened the door for Bishop LeBlond to resuscitate itself and, with a 10-2 mini-spurt in about two minutes that Ferguson’s trey capped, it was up again by three with six minutes left.
However, the last spurt – six consecutive markers – and laugh would belong to Chillicothe.
Statistically, Brandsgaard was the game’s only dual-figures scorer. Korell’s nine topped BLHS.
Indications of the pedestrian pace and sloppiness of the game were that the teams combined, unofficially, for only 30 rebounds, including a mere three offensive snares per side, while having a composite 41 turnovers – 23 by Bishop LeBlond.
In contrast to their Dec. 30 meeting, in which the teams shot 32 free throws between them and made 27, Thursday’s game saw each team attempt only two – making both – before Chillicothe’s three misfires in the last 21 seconds.
A first MEC win shakily tucked into their pockets, the Hornets will try to regain a sharper edge in a much-more challenging next outing – at home Tuesday against Maryville. MHS’ Spoofhounds came very close to knocking off defending MEC champion in those teams’ conference opener Thursday, losing 48-45.
While Maryville’s record is only 2-6, it appears to have gelled of late. Just before Christmas, hosting St. Joseph: Benton in non-conference play after losing to the Cardinals by 20 during the Savannah Invitational Tournament, MHS fell by only four. It then topped a decent Lathrop squad by eight before narrowly losing to Lafayette.