Belie lack of recent practice with solid all-around, 55-45 showing at tough East Buchanan

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
GOWER, Mo. — Just as their male counterparts did a short time later, Chillicothe (Mo.) HS’ basketball Lady Hornets didn’t look at all like a team which had not had a formal practice nearly all week as they took down a formidable host Saturday afternoon.
Playing with a cohesion and effectiveness in a game plan which had only been shared with them orally – and that only earlier in the day, the Lady Hornets (9-5) led the strong East Buchanan Lady Bulldogs squad (10-3) most of the first half, then broke away from a 24-24 intermission knot by netting 13 of the second half’s first 17 points, propelling them to an eventual 55-45 non-conference triumph.
Led by surging senior Hunter Keithley’s 18 points – her sixth-straight double-digits performance in the wake of being blanked by Smithville Dec. 27, the CHS girls trailed only twice – at 22-20 and 24-22 in the final 2½ minutes of the second stanza. On each occasion, the Lady Hornets tied it on their ensuing possession, first on two of Keithley’s 11 free throws and then on her easy, right-side lay-in when set up by Haley Kidd’s cross-lane pass.
After scoring first after halftime, Chillicothe led the rest of the day.
Up next for the Lady Hornets is this coming week’s Cameron Invitational Tournament. Seeded third, they’ll begin play in it Tuesday at 4 p.m. against Higginsville.
When EBHS freshman standout post player Gracie Kelsey, grand-daughter of Pat Smith of Chula and niece of Chillicothe Elementary School Principal Abby Smith, missed two free throws on the first possession of the third quarter – the 6’ lefthander scored a team-best 15 points, the Lady Hornets pounced voraciously at both ends of the floor.
Their own freshman starter, guard Jessica Reeter, connected on a left-wing 3-ball off Keithley’s pass to not put CHS back on top, but there to stay, about 20 seconds later.
On defense, Chillicothe was on its way to preventing – with admittedly uncommonly-poor perimeter shooting by “East Buck” – any Lady Bulldogs baskets in the first seven minutes of the second half. The home team’s only scoring in that stretch were a free throw each by Kelsey and Erin McPike.
At CHS’ offensive end, Jordan Hibner followed Je. Reeter’s “3” with her own about 90 seconds later, set up by the frosh. On the next Lady Hornets possession, Brooke Horton took an Essie Hicks pass and sank a turnaround shot in the paint to make it eight CHS tallies in a row to begin the last half.
Even though the visitors then went through their own scoring drought of more than four minutes, they still were up by four when sophomore reserve guard Selby Miller knocked down a pull-up jumper from around the right elbow of the lane 17 seconds before the third frame ended.
That let CHS take a 34-28 advantage to the last quarter, a margin Miller quickly expanded by half-again when she converted another Kidd pass into a left-side triple 22 seconds into the closing eight minutes.
Even with Kelsey netting a putback and then fashioning a three-points play in a span of merely 25 seconds, two Keithley deuces and one on a tough, driving shot by Lucy Reeter left the Lady Hornets with their first twin-numerals lead, 43-33, with six minutes remaining.
Limiting East Buchanan to only two deuces in the 5½ minutes after Kelsey’s basket-and-1, Chillicothe lengthened its lead to 12 on two Hicks free throws after she made a steal with 1:25 to go and then to 13 twice after that on a pair of “Annie Oakleys” from Keithley and Hibner.
Statistically, in addition to Keithley’s 18 points, Hibner rang up 14 and a half-dozen others joined forces to provide 22 between them. Paced by Keithley’s 11-of-15 work, the Chillicothe girls made a very respectable 18 of 26 foul shots, while the home team was only seven of 14.
East Buchanan simply could not find the range from 3-points distance, sinking only two of perhaps approaching 20 attempts.
In addition to Kelsey’s 15 points, the Lady Bulldogs, who split two earlier games with Maryville’s strong squad that CHS hopes to encounter again this coming week at Cameron, received 14 points from Lilly Schilling and nine by Addi Ishmael. However, its remaining players combined for only seven other tallies.
Unofficially, Chillicothe held its own with the taller EBHS squad, snaring only one less carom, although East Buchanan did have an 11-5 advantage in offensive grabs that converted into a 13-0 dominance in second-chance points, by C-T count.
The Lady Hornets, unofficially, earned 10 assists, though, to only three for the Lady Bulldogs, who are expected to make a strong run at a Class 2 state tournament appearance a month from now. Chillicothe will be hoping to do the same in Class 3.