Kearney establishes early control, deals Chillicothe basketball Hornets first loss

CHS’ opening basket answered by 13-0 KHS run; Bulldogs’ lead double digits last three periods Tuesday (Dec. 1, 2020) as Hornets go to 1-1 on season

Paul Sturm
Chillicothe News
Chillicothe (Mo.) HS boys' basketball

SAVANNAH, Mo. —

The Kearney Bulldogs’ early runs got smaller, but their lead got bigger until the Chillicothe High School basketball Hornets – despite playing Kearney on even terms the last 20 minutes – were in too deep a hole to climb out of Tuesday.

Following CHS’ Wyatt Brandsgaard converting Hayden Simmer’s pass to the right low post into a nifty up-and-under, reverse layup, Bulldogs senior guard Brennan Watkins nailed a pull-up 3-pointer from 24 feet on the right side 10 seconds later and favored KHS had a lead it would keep.

That basket started Watkins, already signed to a NCAA Division I program for next school year, CHS head coach Tim Cool noted, on his way to a game-high 35 points and the Bulldogs to a string of 13 unanswered tallies which left Chillicothe facing a dual-digits deficit 3½ minutes into the action.

Although the Hornets (1-1) tried to counter with consecutive treys from sophomores Brandsgaard and Griff Bonderer to get within five briefly, Kearney reestablished the twin-figures lead on 6’4” Drew Gentry’s inside basket about 45 seconds before the end of the opening frame and the margin never was single digits again.

Following the early 13-0 burst, KHS reeled off eight markers in a row, capped 6’5” Ashton Holloway’s steal and breakaway layup that began the second-quarter scoring. When Brandsgaard briefly interrupted that with a driving deuce, the Bulldogs (2-0) simply started a new one. Six consecutive points raised the Kearney lead to 27-10 in the middle of the second period.

CHS, with only two returning starters from last season’s 21-wins squad, calmed its game’s tempo after that.

“I thought, in the first half, we were pretty impatient,” reviewed Cool. “… We didn’t make them guard us for very long, but we had stretches (later) where we did much better than that.”

The margin jockeyed between about 12 and 15 points for the rest of the second and third quarters, but when Brandsgaard, who posted a team-high 20 points, converted classmate Cayden Potter’s pass into a short-range basket early in the fourth, the Hornets were down by only 10 points – 45-35.

“They came out … and really fought a very good Kearney team that has a Division I player,” the CHS coach saluted his squad.

“… They’re figuring things out really, really well and very quickly. We’ve got a bunch of young guys out there, but we’ve got a bunch of guys that know how to compete.”

Watkins squelched any reasonable hope of an against-the-odds successful CHS comeback by burying his third trey of the day – this one from left of the key – in transition shortly after the Hornets cut the lead to 10 and the spread remained at least 13 points the rest of the way before matching the game’s widest at the final horn.

Statistically, joining Brandsgaard in double figures in scoring for Chillicothe was Bonderer with 10.

In addition to Watkins' 35 points, Kearney's Gentry tacked on 10.

“Mason (Baxter) did everything he could” to keep Watkins in check, Cool assessed the defense on Watkins. “He worked his rear off and I thought our other guys were good in ‘help’ and made him earn everything he got.”Chillicothe’s boys will face Smithville in Thursday’s 4 p.m. consolation semifinal, SHS’ Warriors having fallen to St. Joseph: Benton 62-59 right before the CHS-KHS game.

Because it’s short on players because of its school’s football team still competing in that sport, Maryville dropped out of the tournament. One result of that is there will be no seventh-place game, meaning if Chillicothe cannot win Thursday, it will not get the desired third chance to play this week.

“This is a really good experience for our guys,” Cool stated. “We need games and we need to play good teams to just keep getting better. I think this tournament is going to give us that.”