Behind Westley Brandsgaard's 30 points, Hornets battle past Brookfield 69-54 Thursday (Feb. 27, 2020) after Bulldogs rally from 17 down

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor

CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — The 17-points lead they constructed in the first 10 minutes nearly erased by the middle of the third quarter, Chillicothe (Mo.) HS' basketball Hornets met the Brookfield Bulldogs’ challenge Thursday (Feb. 27, 2020).

Their once-comfortable margin slashed to three when Cooper Cisna swished a trey from right of the key with 4:24 remaining in the third period, the Hornets (21-4) posted 12 of the 14 points netted in the rest of that frame and protected that double-digits margin virtually the entire last stanza to win, 69-54.

The victory, which featured senior Westley Brandsgaard matching his season- and career-high in scoring with 30 points and running mate C.J. Pfaff passing 1,000 points for his career, put host Chillicothe, the No. 1 seed, in tonight’s 6:45 championship game of the Class 3 District 14 tournament against second-seeded Richmond.

Richmond earned its spot by fending off Higginsville 53-41 Thursday.

CHS’ Hornets will seek their first trip to the state tournament since 2005. They’ve lost in district finals four times since then, most recently in 2018 when they were in Class 4.

Thursday’s victory over Brookfield seemed a foregone conclusion when Chillicothe, shooting very well from deep, but also getting points from inside the arc and at the free-throw line, expanded a 9-2 start to 16-5 with seven unanswered points and then produced a 12-2 surge that had it with a commanding 28-11 advantage three minutes into the second stanza.

Having scored – almost at will, it seemed – on a very high percentage of their possessions to that juncture, the Hornets soon discovered that underdog Brookfield (13-13) wasn’t about to follow the host’s “command.”

In less than a minute, four different blue ’Dogs connected from the floor, including Carsen Beckman’s trey from atop the key. Just that quickly, just over half of Chillicothe lead had vaporized.

However, when the Hornets’ Mason Baxter stole a BHS in-bounds pass in the Bulldogs’ offensive lane and went end to end for a layup, it helped CHS get to halftime with a 32-23 lead.

Any home fans’ hopes of their team having weathered the worst of the Brookfield storm soon found themselves disappointed when play resumed.

Beginning with Cisna’s foul line pull-up jumper 27 seconds into the second half, the Bulldogs got right back in their offensive flow.

In response to a We. Brandsgaard right-corner trey – one of a personal season-high four he hit, Cisna sank three free throws, Beckman popped in an 11-footer, and Cisna drilled a “3” while Chillicothe went scoreless in a nearly-2-minutes span. When Cisna’s triple went at the 4:24 mark of the third period, Brookfield was within two, 35-33.

Cool, showing confidence in his team’s experience in repeated sticky situations through the regular season, opted to preserve Chillicothe’s timeouts, rather than trying to half play in an attempt to halt Brookfield’s momentum.

Instead, his players did it on their own.

In perhaps the pivotal single play of the game, a half-minute after BHS got within two, Hornets senior Bradley Riley – not more-heralded classmates We. Brandsgaard or C.J. Pfaff – delivered in the clutch.

Taking a pass deep in the left corner, the red-headed 6’4” forward – converted from guard this season – faked a trey, drove by his jumping defender, and then pulled up and hit about a 7-feet jumper over a Bulldog who had halted his drive.

That began a 12-2 Chillicothe reply to the BHS challenge, an answer the Bulldogs were unable to effectively overcome the rest of the way.

Two Pfaff free throws – the second of which put him at 1,000 for his varsity career – and another We. Brandsgaard trifecta from the right corner pushed the CHS lead back to nine. A putback by Brookfield’s Nick Jones gave his team a chance to blunt the home team’s momentum, but the last minute of the third quarter saw Baxter turn Riley’s pass from the high post into a left-wing triple and Pfaff rebound his own miss and flip in a quick follow shot from about eight feet with a second on the clock.

A game Brookfield had been threatening to steal four minutes earlier headed to the last stanza with Chilliothe once more in front by twin numerals, 47-35.

The only time Brookfield reduced its deficit to single figures again came much too late when Cisna buried a left-wing trey, making it 63-54. Only 50 seconds remained, however, and – with BHS out of timeouts – Chillicothe hit six free throws without a miss in the remaining moments to push its final margin back to 15.

Statistically, on top of We. Brandsgaard’s career-high points total – he also unofficially had seven rebounds, Chillicothe also put Pfaff and Riley in double figures with 19 and 10, respectively. Pfaff double-doubled for the ninth time this season with 10 boards, while also notching four assists.

Cisna’s 25 led Brookfield. Three teammates had between seven and nine.

Netting 18 of 24 in the final frame, CHS converted 23 times in 32 attempts at the charity stripe. Brookfield made nine of 14.