Senior's overall contributions helped lead Lady Hornets to conference, district crowns, state tourney appearance
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
Senior Hunter Keithley of the Midland Empire Conference tri-champion Chillicothe High School basketball Lady Hornets has been voted to the 2019-20 Missouri Basketball Coaches Association’s (MBCA) Class 3 girls’ All-State team, it was learned last week.
It was the latest postseason recognition for her, previously having been chosen first-team all-Midland Empire Conference, MBCA Class 3 District 14 all-district, and Missouri Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association all-northwest district, as well as included on various individual media entities’ honors squads. It is, however, her first occasion of receiving statewide recognition.
The most-recent prior Lady Hornets All-Stater was Whitney Clampitt in 2016-17, when she was tabbed a third-straight year.
While CHS boys’ All-Stater Westley Brandsgaard’s pounding, faking, squirming, diving presence on the floor was impossible for even a casual to miss, Keithley was a stealthier player at both ends of the floor, succeeding in many facets of the game while rarely doing so in a style which drew attention to herself from the fan looking to have their eyes popped.
“She could impact a game in so many ways, even without scoring,” Darren Smith, her head coach throughout her CHS career, shares.
The 5’9” wing forward’s versatile athleticism – she could impact a game at both ends of the floor from either the perimeter or in and around the paint and her willingness to do so while sacrificing the notoriety that comes with being a big scorer every time out is reflected in an unique set of statistics she amassed in 2019-20.
At season’s end, she had reached triple digits not only in points, but also in total field goals (102) and free throws (125) made, rebounds (122), and assists (100). Although a definitive statistical comparison with outstanding, all-around Lady Hornets basketball standouts of the 1990s in all of those or other common statistical categories (such as steals) is not readily available, the C-T has verified no other CHS girl since at least 1997-98 has reached triple figures in four “counting” (cumulative) statistical categories.
“I thought Hunter had a fantastic year,” Smith says, aware Keithley lacked the gaudy per-game average number in any particular statistical category – particularly in scoring – it often takes to draw high postseason honors.
The team’s leader or co-leader in scoring 18 times in 28 games, she netted as many as 20 markers only five times and never more than the career-high 22 she had in a midseason win over Platte County at Kearney. As a consequence, she averaged “only” 12.8 points a contest, along with 4.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists. The scoring and assist numbers led the team.
That Jan. 13 game against Platte County indisputably was the “signature” game of her fine career, which began with about 10 varsity-game appearances as a freshman reserve for the 2016-17 district-championship team and ended with another district title and state-tournament appearance this season.
Even on the occasion of her career-best scoring performance, Keithley complemented it not only with 12 rebounds – 10 of them on the offensive glass, but also what might be the “calling card” of her CHS careers – excellent free-throw shooting.
At Kearney that afternoon, she drained an amazing 17 of 19 attempts at the charity stripe, in all likelihood CHS girls single-game records for the number of “made” free throws and number attempted. The success rate of nearly 90 percent could be an “unofficial” CHS game record, too, when limiting the comparison to players with, say, at least 12 attempts.
Netting 125 of 156 tries at the charity stripe as a senior, she completed her career with 310 made in exactly 400 attempts – a 77.5 percent rate of success. This year’s 125 “good” foul shots, her 310 for her career, her 80.21 free-throws percentage as a junior, and her career accuracy rate each stands third in CHS girls’ annals.
By sinking those 125 “Annie Oakleys” this past season – her 80.13 accuracy the past season sits fourth, right behind her showing a year earlier, she joins mid-late 1990s Lady Hornets legend Katie Stephens as the only CHS girls to sink at least 100 free throws in a season twice, according to records researched by Randy Dean.
As for shooting farther from the rim and with defenders able to contest her shots, Keithley’s 29 treys as a senior – following 48 as a junior – lifted her career total just into triple digits at 102. That has her fifth currently on the all-time list.
The epitome of steadiness, Keithley walked off the court the last time in a CHS career that three times saw her reap all-Midland Empire Conference first-team honors as one of the limited number of Lady Hornets ever to net at least 1,000 points in a career, reaching that lofty plateau late in the regular season and finishing with 1,048 for her career. In her three full seasons of varsity play, she never scored less than 331 points or more than the 358 she had this season, each time topping the team.
Smith declares she also brought that steady, unaffected demeanor to the locker room and practice floor.
“She was a great leader and mentor for the younger girls,” the coach reveals. “Very encouraging and I felt like she showed a tremendous amount of confidence in them.
“The legacy she leaves is one of unselfishness and a huge desire to win. To do whatever you can to help the team be successful and to prepare the next group of Lady Hornets.”