CHS senior guard plays prime role in execution of defensive game plan that limited Maryville's 6' All-State guard to 11 points in 41-32 CHS conquest

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor

CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — While the shore definitely not yet in sight for either, the Chillicothe (Mo.) HS basketball Lady Hornets on Tuesday night (Feb. 11) followed their male counterparts’ lead of five nights earlier in parlaying a crucial home game into a major stride toward a Midland Empire Conference championship.

Welcoming Maryville, which – behind 3-times All-Stater Serena Sundell’s 32 points – had paddled them 63-39 on a neutral court in early December, the Lady Hornets – spearheaded senior guard Jordan Hibner – executed excellently the defensive game plan head coach Darren Smith gave them to post a 41-32 victory.

The turnabout triumph not only lifts CHS’ overall record to 13-6, but improves it to 3-0 in the league – the only MEC girls’ team still unbeaten in loop action. Maryville, which had established itself as the conference’s title favorite when it opened MEC play with a triumph over Kansas City: St. Pius X in early January, dipped to 3-1 in league games and 15-4 overall.

The Lady Hornets’ showdown success against Maryville mirrors what the CHS boys did Friday, Feb. 7, when they and fellow MEC unbeaten St. Joseph: Benton tangled on the CHS hardwoods. The Hornets emerged the solo league leader with a 57-54 victory.

The Chillicothe girls’ conquest Tuesday now makes their make-up game at St. Pius X next Monday (Feb. 17) the key remaining contest in league play. The Lady Hornets also still have to face a very capable Cameron squad, as well as less-formidable Savannah and St. Joseph: Lafayette units.

The boys, who have one more league win in the bank, are in a similar situation with one huge hurdle between them and the MEC crown – their Feb. 18 game at defending champion St. Joseph: Lafayette.

While Tuesday’s Lady Hornets victory came with a 9-points final margin and saw them playing from ahead or even for most of the last 2-plus quarters, it easily could have tilted the way of MHS’ Lady Spoofhounds in the stretch run.

After each side scored nine points in each of the first two stanzas, Maryville tallied the last four points of the third frame to lead 26-25 heading to the fourth segment of the defense-dictated clash.

CHS freshman point guard Jessica Reeter’s left-of-the-key triple after an Essie Hicks offensive rebound – the last of three times in the game the Lady Hornets turned an offensive grab into a trifecta – gave the hosts back the upper hand, 28-26, 24 seconds into the stanza.

Maryville tied it on its own second-chance opportunity with 6:12 to play before Hibner quickly found the range from outside the arc on the left side on the ensuing possession to give Chillicothe a lead it would keep for the final approximately 5:50.

The Lady ’Hounds eased within a point moments later and again with 3:25 left. However, that driving deuce by Sundell, giving her a meager-by-her-standards 11 points, would turn out to be the final MHS points of the contest.

With Chillicothe’s aggressive attacking of the paint on offense – even though many times not producing points – having led to multiple MHS fouls in the first 12 minutes of the second half, Maryville was called for its seventh foul of the half with nearly three minutes left. As a result, when the Lady Hornets effectively drained time off the clock with out-court ball movement once the game reached its last 2½ minutes, Maryville’s fouling to stop the clock in the final minute meant CHS free-throw opportunities.

Given the Lady Hornets’ season-long sharpness at the charity stripe, it was a gamble, but one MHS likely felt forced to turn to, given its scoring struggles. However, Chillicothe made the foe pay.

With a minute to go, Hibner stepped to the line in the 1-and-1 and swished both tries, making it 35-32, CHS. After Maryville looked desperately, but unsuccessfully, for a way to get Sundell open for shot – particularly a potential tying trey, a different Lady Spoofhound fired and missed from long range and Je. Reeter secured the weak-side rebound.

Fouled quickly, the frosh – also shooting in the bonus situation – coolly sank both attempts, the second barely reaching the top side of the front rim before skipping across to the brace, then off the glass, and then rolling back to drop through the net. With 38 seconds remaining, the Lady Hornets had a 2-possessions lead, further tightening the screws on Maryville’s offense.

Chillicothe’s Brooke Horton secured the carom of the second miss of the ensuing MHS possession and, with 24 seconds, went to the line for the 2-shots “double bonus.” When she copied Hibner’s and Je. Reeter’s results, the lead was the game’s largest, 39-32, and victory was essentially assured.

For good measure, following a MHS airball and foul of Hunter Keithley as she caught the subsequent throw-in, Keithley calmly completed the Lady Hornets’ letter-perfect final-minute free-throw marksmanship with two conversions. That gave CHS the game’s last eight points and left the final spread at a deceiving nine points.

Before the give-and-take flow of the first 17 minutes of the second half, which saw neither side able to score more than four points consecutively, the first half – while finishing dead even – had been a story of dueling mini-runs.

Six Maryville points in a row in a 2:20 stretch of the first quarter, when Chillicothe committed several turnovers, erased CHS’ 4-3 lead. However, a Keithley left-wing trey off Hibner’s loose-ball offensive rebound, and Horton’s left-side lay-in via Keithley’s driving feed tied the game after one quarter and Keithley’s left baseline drive 35 seconds into the second stanza made it seven points in a row for the home team.

The Lady Hornets then lapsed into another sloppy stretch and failed to score for exactly four minutes. Only its defensive effectiveness kept Maryville from managing more than six tallies in the interim, the last two of those coming off one of those turnovers.

Once CHS unlocked the lid on its basket again, it finished the half with a tying 7-2 push. It featured – in a role reversal – Hibner cashing in a Keithley offensive rebound with a triple, Horton’s sweet turnaround, fadeaway jumper off the window – a la Wilt Chamberlain – after getting pass near the left block, and, off a baseline in-bounds play with four seconds left, Hicks’ mid-range jumper from left of the lane after taking Je. Reeter’s throw-in.

Statistically, given the dearth of overall scoring, neither team had a player with more than 11 points. While Sundell settled for that, Keithley – with her closing conversions at the stripe – matched that.

With her two foul shots in the last minute following a pair in the third stanza and a trey in each of the last two segments, Je. Reeter got to double figures, as well, with 10. Hibner and Horton contributed eight each to the win.

Unofficially, despite a few instances of laxity on the defensive glass, Chillicothe unofficially finished with an important 32-21 advantage on the backboards. Horton, a 5’11” junior who has provided an important new, inside-game element to the Lady Hornets over the past month, topped the team with six snares, one more than Hick and Keithley, who plucked all of hers off the offensive window. Je. Reeter added four, including three important “position” rebounds on defense in the last quarter.

A critical bonus from the strong rebounding was the three occasions in which CHS earned a second look at the hoop with offensive boards and turned those extra chances into a trio of treys. Chillicothe outscored Maryville 9-4 in second-chance points, that advantage allowing it to be in front and force the opponent to have to foul in the late going.