Top-heavy favorites to find themselves in Saturday's title game, CHS boys pull away from Lafayette County (Higginsville) with typical spurts Monday (Jan. 27, 2020). Bonderer, Simmer have their first double-digits scoring showings of season

CAMERON, Mo. — Higginsville’s Huskers hung around gamely through the game’s first 8-plus minutes Monday, but were stung by a quick sequence of 3-points shots by the heavily-favored Chillicothe (Mo.) HS basketball Hornets, who cruised on to a 65-37 triumph in opening-night play in the 2020 Cameron Invitational Tournament.

Having taken the lead for keeps with a 7-2 spurt after the Lafayette County team had begun the contest’s scoring, the top-seeded Hornets (12-3) found their lead surprisingly at only 15-13 when Kyzer Gann-Vega of the Huskers (5-9) made a free throw a relatively-few seconds into the second stanza.

Beginning about 15 seconds after that, Chillicothe rippled the cords from downtown three times in a minute to suddenly create a double-digits difference. Freshman Griff Bonderer converted Westley Brandsgaard’s pass with a shot from the top of the key to commence the sequence, after which senior guard C.J. Pfaff hit from long range on the left wing on another We. Brandsgaard setup and from just left of the key in transition after accepting a Bonderer feed.

A banked-in Higginsville hoop from mid-lane cut the CHS lead to 24-15 momentarily, but Bonderer’s free throw with 5:08 remaining in the second period recreated a twin-digits spread that held the rest of the way.

The game’s last 16 or so minutes were almost all Hornets. With Lafayette County having scored five points in a row to once more trail by 10, Chillicothe rang up the next four field goals – three of them from outside the arc (Pfaff, Hayden Simmer, Bonderer) – to jack the lead to 21. A 14-1 Hornets surge in the last three minutes of the third stanza and first couple of minutes of the fourth brought the “running clock” into temporary use before the Hornets settled for the 28-points decision.

Statistically, the contest saw Bonderer and Simmer have their biggest scoring games of the season to date, freshman reserve Bonderer with his young-career-best 11 points and junior starting guard Simmer with 10. Simmer’s career high is 15 in a 2018-19 win over Marshall. Bonderer also provided seven rebounds and four assists and Simmer five boards and two helpers, according to Chillicothe statisticians.

Senior linchpins Westley Brandsgaard and C.J. Pfaff posted matching, team-high, 16-points totals – the former’s being five below his average and latter’s about a single tally less than normal. Pfaff did double-double with 12 rebounds and led CHS with five assists and four shot blocks, as well. We. Brandsgaard provided a team-most three steals.

Higginsville, a potential district-tournament foe for CHS late next month, received 14 points from Mason Rumsey.

With its seventh-straight victory, Chillicothe started toward its anticipated appearance in the tournament’s championship game. If it defeats Lawson – already a 35-points victim earlier in the month – in Thursday’s 5:15 p.m. “pool” contest, it will qualify for Saturday’s 1:45 p.m. title game.

In the other games in the tourney at Cameron Monday, Maryville’s second-seeded boys crushed Cameron 69-44, while, in the girls’ division, top-seeded Maryville fought off a decent Lawson team 54-43 and second seed Smithville ho-hummed past Higginsville 61-27.