Never trailing, CHS boys (14-3) turn aside Maryville 62-50 Saturday (Feb. 1, 2020) for ninth-straight victory, first championship in Cameron event since 2004

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
CAMERON, Mo. — When Chillicothe (Mo.) HS’ basketball Lady Hornets had their string of four Cameron Invitational Tournament titles in succession snapped this week – they finished third with a stirring late-comeback win Saturday, the red-hot Hornets filled the void impressively.

Facing archrival Maryville a second time in three weeks – this time on a neutral floor after prevailing by 13 at home, the Hornets went wire to wire in their Cameron title-game rematch Saturday afternoon, posting a 62-50 victory. MHS’ Spoofhounds defeated the Hornets 60-47 for the Cameron crown a year ago, the third time in four years Chillicothe had come away from the tourney’s championship game second-best.

That was not to be the case this time.

“We hunted them for four quarters,” Tim Cool, CHS head coach, said proudly of his squad’s performance. “We got after ’em.”

Of starting typically strong and never trailing, the coach assessed his team’s ninth win in a row, “Our effort and our execution were both really good. That’s just focus. That’s just our guys were ready.”

That showed from the opening tipoff when Pfaff, the Hornets’ unique 6’5” point guard, jumped more quickly than 6’9” Spoofhound Marc Gustafson and tapped the ball to a CHS teammate.

The Hornets (14-3) capitalized on Pfaff’s alert elevation, executing a nifty inside play in which senior Bradley Riley perfectly led classmate Westley Brandsgaard to the basket for a lefthanded lay-in as Brandsgaard cut hard down the lane from the high post.

The lead that provided resided in Chillicothe’s hands the game’s final 31:20, reaching a peak of 13 three times and sitting in twin figures for more than half of the contest’s last 23 minutes.

The Hornets began to take control with a 13-3 stretch over a span of 5½ minutes spanning the first and second periods.

The first portion of that surge saw the unsung Riley’s putback of a Brandsgaard miss followed within the next 63 seconds by two Brandgaard makes – first a 24-footer from far beyond the key and then a third-try putback from a foot away.

After Maryville netted a free throw and a deuce, Brandsgaard prematurely shuttered the first-frame scoring – neither side tallied in the last 2½ minutes – with a low-post shot over the much-taller Gustafson that capped a 12-points opening segment for the burly, bruising fourth-year starter.

“Wes was so good early,” an appreciative Cool praised, noting that Brandsgaard’s scoring in the early going both created more room for Pfaff to flourish down the stretch, as well as open opportunities for Brandsgaard to set up teammates when double- and triple-teamed.

“He hit Bradley Riley a couple of times with great passes when Bradley would ‘dive’ (rush unguarded to the basket) after his man would double.”

When freshman Griff Bonderer sank two free throws six seconds into the second stanza and Riley sweetly flipped home a 9-foot jump hook in the paint about 50 seconds later, Chillicothe led 18-7. The margin grew to 23-11 with 4:23 left in the first half when Pfaff, saddled with two fouls in the game’s first five minutes, took a pass from Brandsgaard, who’d faked his own long shot, and swished a wide-open triple from the left wing for his first scoring of the contest.

Not surprisingly, while down, Maryville was not out, certainly not as long as it could get the ball in the hands of senior guard Trey Oglesby.

Scoring the ’Hounds’ last six points of the second quarter and four of the six with which the No. 2 seed began the third period, he led Maryville back to within three points with the better part of two frames to play.

Their advantage having shrunk to 30-27 behind the Oglesby barrage, the Hornets emerged from a momentum-taming timeout and reasserted control.

Two Brandsgaard charity tosses less than 10 seconds after play resumed were followed by an increasingly-familiar, mid-range, baseline jumper by frosh Bonderer and then a strong drive to the basket from the right wing via the baseline by Brandsgaard. Even more quickly than Maryville had cut its 9-points halftime deficit to three, the Hornets had restored it. The margin would not be less than seven thereafter.

Statistically, Pfaff’s 24 points – 18 of them in the game’s final 9:20, including a pair of trifectas and perfection on six shots at the free-throw line – led CHS, but was supplemented by 18 from Brandsgaard and nine each from Riley and Bonderer. Were it not for missing two inconsequential free throws in the game’s final minute, the ninth grader would have posted his 3rd-straight game of double-digits scoring.

“Griff might be 14 (years old), but he is about 18 in basketball age,” Cool declared in his post-game broadcast remarks.

“He’s so smart, understands the game, his teammates trust him. He’s humble and coachable. He just wants to win.”

While CHS had both prolific productivity and depth of scoring, Oglesby was virtually the only weapon the Spoofhounds (5-8) had. With his team behind 23-11 not quite midway through the second period, he scored MHS’ last 10 points of the half and then 23 of its 29 after intermission, finishing with a game-best 38 tallies. He knocked down all five treys Maryville hit.

Pfaff, In addition to his team-high points total, secured a Hornets-high nine rebounds and blocked three shots. He did all of his scoring with a modicum of shots – netting all three shots he took from the floor from less than 19 feet and all six charity tosses, while also connecting on four of six from deep.

“He’s a winner,” Cool shrugged afterward, understanding he was stating the obvious.

As a cherry atop the whipped-cream tourney championship, Brandsgaard deservedly was presented the tournament’s Ryan Beckett Hustle Award, named for a late early-2000s Cameron Dragons player who died a few years ago in an accident.

Multiple times Saturday, as he had in the Hornets’ two previous wins in the tourney, the bulldog-like senior dove to capture or keep alive loose balls or rebounds. He did that while also delivering 57 points, 17 rebounds, six steals, and nine assists.

Having, at last, captured Cameron’s tournament title for the first time in 16 years, Chillicothe’s boys now will turn their full attention to the next attainable goal – ending an identical drought with their first Midland Empire Conference championship since 2004.

“It’s a great win,” Cool said of Saturday’s triumph. “We’re going to enjoy it for the rest of the weekend and then get ready Monday to go back to the MEC.”

Currently 2-0 in the loop, the Hornets will host Kansas City: St. Pius X Tuesday in a 5 p.m. varsity/JV/”C” team tripleheader and, three nights later, welcome St. Joseph: Benton in what, ultimately, could be the pivotal duel for the MEC crown. Benton, victorious over St. Pius X in their only league game to date, nipped the Hornets by three for the Savannah tournament title in early December.