Despite Brooke Horton's double-double, repeated Kansas City: Park Hill driving scores helped key 59-50 triumph over Lady Hornets in Kearney tournament semifinal Jan. 15, 2020. CHS to meet KC: Notre Dame de Sion for third place

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor

KEARNEY, Mo. — Already in a semifinals rematch, the Chillicothe High School basketball Lady Hornets’ bid to create a Lady Bulldogs Classic championship-game rematch with host Kearney started promisingly Wednesday night (Jan. 15, 2020) when they netted a basket on the opening possession of their clash with Kansas City: Park Hill.
That proved to be their only lead, however, as, despite being in the thick of things midway through the third quarter, they sustained a 59-50 defeat from the Lady Trojans, who they had downed by 10 in last year’s semifinals.
“They battled all night long. We fought hard with a really good team,” Darren Smith, CHS head coach, asserted in a broadcast interview after his team’s 3-games winning streak had been snapped.
“It’s disappointing to lose, but if we can take something from this and get better from it, that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Paced all game by the scoring and rebounding of junior center Brooke Horton’s career-best performance of 16 points and 10 rebounds, the Lady Hornets (7-5) closed the first half strong and, as they had to start the contest, received a point-blank basket from Hunter Keithley on the first possession of the third quarter to trail only 29-28 after having been behind 19-9 in the opening minute of the second stanza. They never caught up or surpassed the KC team, though, as the next scoring came on a left-side trey by PHHS’ Sam Bertoncino.
Twice in the next several minutes, Horton 9-foot shots from the paint fell to pull Chillicothe within two, but the latter of those at the 4:35 mark of the third frame turned out to be the Lady Hornets’ last scoring for almost three minutes.
In the interim, the Lady Trojans used three drives to score before Bertoncino connected from the left side again with just less than two minutes remaining in the segment. The 2:10 spurt transformed a 2-points game into an 11-points Park Hill lead and CHS, having a difficult night with its usually-reliable perimeter shooting. never was closer than seven points the remainder of the contest. Netting the first eight points of the closing quarter, Park Hill assumed a 53-38 lead with five minutes to play, effectively sealing the deal.
“We didn’t shoot it (from outside) as well as we have the capability of shooting it, but we’ve shot pretty well all year, except for a game or two,” Smith said philosophically afterward. “You can’t sustain that over the long haul, so you’ve got to get (the ball) inside (more) and I think we’re doing a better job of that.”
Horton’s first career double-double, coming on the heels of an 8-tallies, 10-boards showing Monday against Platte County, bears out the coach’s assertion.
The junior, showing growing offensive confidence, led the recovery from the early-second-stanza 10-points hole with five deuces in that stanza, then sank the aforementioned pair from the lane in the first four minutes of the third quarter.
“Brooke Horton had a fantastic night,” Smith lauded. “Really was big and strong. She’s coming along well.”
However, once Park Hill went on its fast run to reinflate its lead to dual digits, CHS players seemed to forget about the success their pivot had been having. Instead, they tended to trigger outside shots quickly on most possessions and, aside from a pair of Jordan Hibner connections from beyond the arc late in the third quarter, most of those missed.
“Sometimes we get a little impatient,” Smith acknowledged.
Two major shortcomings plagued Chillicothe’s efforts to get another crack at Kearney.
It committed five turnovers – several of them uncharacteristically sloppy – in each of the first two quarters, three of them turning into simple transition layups. It also had its half-court, player-to-player defense sliced and diced for nine driving layups.
“We turned the ball over too much,” the CHS coach said of the ball-security gaffes. “(Unofficial statistics of 15 giveaways) didn’t bear it out as much as I thought it was, but it was the time we turned it over and the spots we turned it over. We gave up several runouts on them.”
As for the driving deuces – six of them helping the Lady Trojans pull away in the last half, Smith stated, “We’ve got to do a better job of helping off screens. … They were setting that high screen and even a stagger screen and we didn’t help enough and it was the wrong people at the wrong areas to help.
“That’s something I need to do a little better job of teaching and cleaning up.”
However, he observed, getting that shortcoming exposed is part of the value of playing against larger-school teams, including upcoming third-place game foe Kansas City: Notre Dame de Sion, in the Kearney tournament.
“The teams we face down here – that’s one of the reasons we like coming down here is we see a little different brand (of play),” the Lady Hornets coach mused. “It’s very physical. It’s fast. They defend you hard, so we’ve got to do some different things to get our looks we like to get.
“Notre Dame (a 51-37 loser to Kearney in their semifinal) will present that same issue.”
The CHS-Notre Dame de Sion game will occur a day later than originally intended, due to anticipated snowy/icy weather Friday, it was announced Thursday (Jan. 16).
It is reset to Saturday at 1:30 p.m. in the same TDR Auto Plaza Fieldhouse Liberty Hospital gym (new gym) in which Chillicothe's first two games in the tourney have been played.
Statistically in Wednesday’s game, Horton’s 16 points were undergirded by 13 from Keithley and 11 by Hibner. Reserve guard Selby Miller provided half of the remaining 10, including a buzzer-beating left-wing trey which drew the Lady Hornets within 29-26 at the end of the first half.
Park Hill had even better production and offensive diversity.
Kennedy Townsend, a sharp 5’9” sophomore guard, combined driving scores, perimeter sniping, and offensive rebounding to pile up a game-high 21 markers. In addition, junior wing forward Bertoncino sank four trifectas as she tallied 14 points and quick senior guard DeQuaria Guillory used her speed to get to the basket on the dribble five times and net 11 points.