Chillicothe Basketball Squads Cruise by Trenton in ‘Senior Night’ Home Openers

Lady Hornets rise to 4-1, boys to 3-2 with ‘running-clock’ romps Friday

Paul Sturm
Chillicothe News
The seniors connected with Chillicothe High School’s 2020-21 basketball season and some of their parents were introduced and honored between games of Friday’s (Dec. 11) home game against Trenton.
  • CHS boys' 42-points winning margin their largest in four years
  • Lady Hornets scored 26 of game's first 29 points, had four dual-digits scorers
  • Hornets senior Hayden Simmer had double-double of 19 points, 10 rebounds. Also have four assists
  • In only instance of back-to-back home games this season, Chillicothe due to host Macon Tuesday

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor

Based on early performances of all four teams involved in Chillicothe High School’s varsity basketball home openers Friday (Dec. 11), prospects for CHS success looked favorable.

With blazing starts and solid game-long play, the Lady Hornets and Hornets turned those possibilities into realities.

After the CHS girls scored 23 unanswered points in the first and early-second quarters on their way to a 64-24 trouncing of Trenton, Chillicothe’s boys tallied the first nine markers of their game and 22 of the first 27, sending them on their way to a similar 75-33 shellacking.

The 42-points victory is the Hornets’ widest in virtually exactly four years. On Dec. 13, 2016, they mauled visiting Macon 59-15. The Lady Hornets won by 52 over Lexington during last year’s district tournament.

The Lady Hornets improved to 4-1 on the young season and the Hornets to 3-2 heading into a second-straight home appearance – the only time all season that will happen – Tuesday (Dec. 15) against Macon.

Macon’s girls defeated Chillicothe’s twice last season – early in the year at Macon and on a neutral court in the opening round of the Class 3 state tournament.

“They’re pretty good,” Darren Smith, Lady Hornets head coach, assessed with intentional understatement.

“They went to the (state tournament’s) ‘final four’ last year and they bring about everybody back. They’ve got a couple of girls that are real strong.

“… We’re going to have to play well. We’re going to have to take care of the basketball, we’re going to have to defend, and we’re going to have to rebound. Offense comes and goes, but defense and intensity and rebounding is something we want to hang our hat on every night.”

The Tigerettes will come in off winning the title of the Centralia tournament Friday with a 64-57 verdict over Hallsville.

The Hornets rode the combined 54 points of then-senior stars Westley Brandsgaard and C.J. Pfaff to a 68-54 win at Macon last year.

“They’ve got a lot of kids back,” Tim Cool, Hornets head coach, reported in a post-game broadcast interview. “They had a couple of dynamic guards that you could tell, even though they were young, they’re very talented.”

The CHS boys’ coach said he anticipates the Tigers wanting to try to force the Hornets into more of an up-tempo, full-court game.

Girls’ game time Tuesday will be 6 p.m. Normal 2020-21 attendance restrictions/requirements will apply.

Friday’s home-court debuts for Chillicothe’s teams – coinciding with “Senior Night” recognition traditionally occurring near season’s end – scarcely could have gone more smoothly for the squads overall and the four seniors involved: Brooke Horton of the Lady Hornets and Hayden Simmer, Mason Baxter, and Eli Cross of the Hornets. The 6’3” Simmer, in fact, produced the finest all-around game of his career with his first double-double – 19 points (on 7-of-13 shooting from the floor) and 10 rebounds – of his career, in addition to dishing off four assists, blocking two shots, and making two steals

Hayden Simmer, one of three Chillicothe High School basketball Hornets senior players, tries a short-range shot in the paint in the first period of Friday’s home game against Trenton. Simmer missed the shot, but followed it and, collecting one of his game-high 10 rebounds in the game, hit the putback for two of his also-game-most 19 points as the Hornets claimed a 75-33 victory.

In largely-limited playing time – compared to a more-competitive game, Horton netted the evening’s first points on a putback of her own miss just over a minute into the action and eventually unofficially posted 10 points and a team-leads-sharing six rebounds and three assists. Four of her rebounds were on the offensive glass and turned into eight second-chance points by her

As her parents look on from the top row of the stands behind her, Brooke Horton, one of four Chillicothe High School senior basketball players honored as they began their final season of home games, prepares to pop in a short, early second-quarter shot to complete a pick-and-roll play with Izzy Montgomery Friday. The basket gave CHS a 24-3 lead over Trenton and the Lady Hornets went on to win, 64-24, with Horton – the Lady Hornets’ lone senior – providing 10 points, six rebounds, and three assists.

Joining her in scoring in dual digits in the romp were sophomore guard Jessica Reeter, with a game-best 14 tallies, and Essie Hicks and freshman Jolie Bonderer, each also with 10.

Unofficially, J. Bonderer matched Horton’s six caroms collected, while J. Reeter and promising sophomore Izzy Montgomery earned three assists apiece, as well.

The Lady Hornets put up their game’s first three points, but a Mallory Sole trey tied it for Trenton 2-1/2 minutes in. Before the Lady Bulldogs would follow that up, they were down by nearly two dozen tallies.

Beginning at the 5:11 mark of the first quarter and extending through the 5:49 mark of the second, six different CHS players combined to register 23 consecutive points.

“I thought this (win) was set up early with our defensive intensity and how hard they were going at it and then only giving them one shot,” Smith declared.

Expanding on that observation a moment later in a broadcast post-game interview, he said, “This team has really bought into defending hard.

“We’re not a finished product, by any stretch of the imagination, but we can guard in a lot of different ways and we’re pretty athletic and, with that, we rebound really well.”

Another Horton stickback and her two free throws after another rebound got the long run rolling. Selby Miller’s steal turned into a J. Bonderer fast-break layup before J. Reeter tickled the twine from each wing only 25 seconds apart. Lucy Reeter’s drive from the key area produced a layup before Miller finished herself after another swipe and J. Bonderer’s triple from atop the key made it 22-3, Chillicothe, after one quarter. Chillicothe’s pesky defense unofficially forced Trenton into 11 first-quarter turnovers.

A perfect pick-and-roll on which Montgomery’s smoothly-executed bounce pass led Horton to the rim for a layup and Montgomery’s own 17-footer from the left wing left CHS owning a 26-3 lead just over two minutes into the second stanza

Junior guard Lucy Reeter of the Chillicothe High School basketball Lady Hornets goes up to hit a fast-break layup, giving CHS a 36-10 lead over Trenton in the second quarter of Friday’s 64-24 CHS victory.

After its long wait, Trenton scored a second time when Gracyn Rongey found the target from beyond the arc  to the left of the key. The 8:10 scoring drought was the first of two of about that length for THS.

Already trailing 40-10 at halftime, the Lady Bulldogs had their best stretch in the first six minutes of the third stanza, playing Chillicothe even over that stretch. However, after Rebecca Urich’s triple with 2:05 to go in the segment made it 48-18, the home team netted the next 11 points. That kept the “running clock” going throughout the final frame, helping generate a scoreless stretch of 7:17 for the visitors before yet another 3-ball – this time from Mikensy Golden – pushed the Lady ’Dogs beyond 20 points for the night.

Smith used the wide margin to tinker with player combinations and give less-experienced players exposure to the varsity-level pace.

“Some of those kids that play jayvee and varsity, they just don’t get a lot of court time in a varsity game with some of the other players that I want to see them with. I thought tonight we were capable of doing that,” he explained.

At game’s end, Chillicothe unofficially had out-rebounded Trenton 31-19 and had converted its 14 offensive boards into a whopping 18-1 advantage in second-chance points.

Leading the Lady Bulldogs’ scoring, unofficially, was junior Urich with five points. While THS sank a respectable six treys, it hit only one 2-points shot – a Urich shot from the right block in the middle of the second quarter – the entire game.

Following the between-games ceremony honoring Chillicothe’s senior players – each of whom started their respective contests, the host Hornets set about duplicating the Lady Hornets’ dominance.

A Wyatt Brandsgaard top-of-the-key trifecta off Cross’ pass began the scoring not quite 40 seconds in. His lefthanded left-side lay-in off Baxter’s first of six official “dimes” (assists), Cross’ pair of free throws, and Simmer’s weak-side stickback made it 9-0, CHS, at the 4:39 mark of quarter No. 1

Chillicothe High School basketball Hornets senior guard Eli Cross begins to drive to the basket from the right wing during the first period of Friday’s home game against Trenton. One of three Hornets honored before playing the first home game of their senior years, Cross was denied a basket as he got to the rim, but was fouled and sank both free throws. In his first start since his sophomore year, Cross scored six points and earned three assists as the CHS boys rolled to a 75-33 win.

A power-move bucket by Royce Jackson got Trenton “off the schneid” just before mid-period, but Simmer’s putback of his own miss and freshman James Mathew’s follow of a Simmer misfire gave the hosts their first double-digits lead just before the game turned six minutes old.

“They have come into the gym every day and just worked and worked and worked and worked,” Cool said of the players’ approach to a full week of practices since their previous game.

“We’ve pushed them pretty hard and it just shows on the floor. They’re just getting to be where it’s a habit to compete like they do and that’s a great thing to watch.”

Trenton tried to counter with Brycin Loyd’s triple, but Hornets sophomore reserve Landon Winder matched it from the left wing off another Cross setup. That reinstated a twin-digits lead, this time for keeps. Griff Bonderer softly banked home a 7-footer from the left side to make it 18-5, Hornets, after one quarter.

Two Wy. Brandsgaard free throws and Bonderer’s follow-shot deuce in the first 42 seconds of the next segment meant CHS had posted 22 of the game’s first 27 points. The spread just kept widening from there even as Hornets head coach Tim Cool lavishly used his bench.

A 14-4 stretch over about a 3-1/2-minutes stretch of the last half of the second period pushed Chillicothe’s lead to 43-17 and at halftime it stood at 27 points, 47-20.

Beginning with Simmer’s two free throws on a technical foul whistled on THS coach Corbin Coe 52 seconds before halftime and ending with Cross’ layup off Cameron Fleener’s pass as Cross cut to the bucket from the right wing midway through the third period, Chillicothe unleashed another blitz – this one 16-3 – to put it on the brink of a 40-points lead at 61-23.

“We just put on a clinic, defensively,” complimented Cool. “… Our ‘shell’ defense was so good and they listened – our scouting report, they played it to a ’T.’”

Up by 36 going into the accelerated-time final quarter, the Hornets’ lead kept climbing. When Winder knocked down a second triple with 3:20 to go and Kyle Young 1-upped a steal and breakaway layup by Bulldog freshman Gabe Novak with a 3-ball from right of the key at the 2:10 mark, the Hornets were up 75-33, where it stayed.

Statistically in the CHS boys’ victory, Simmer’s big game was amply supported by sophomore forward Cayden Potter’s first double-figures scoring game of his career – 11 points – and 10 by Potter’s classmate G. Bonderer. The two 10th graders combined for 9-of-13 shooting from the field.

In his first start in a couple of years, Cross put up six points and earned three assists.

The trio of Hornets seniors, including its most-veteran member Baxter, combined for 13 assists, 16 rebounds, and 29 points on 11-of-19 shooting.

“They have done a great job so far this year,” Cool praised their performances and leadership in the early going.

Of the 11 players Chillicothe used, nine scored at least two points. As a team, the Hornets hit 59% of their field-goal attempts, including half of their 14 3-pointers. They went 22 of 35 inside the arc.

As in the girls’ game, Chillicothe worked the backboards hard, unofficially having a 37-25 advantage. Its 10 offensive grabs led to a 10-1 advantage in second-chance points, unofficially.

Trenton’s scoring in the boys’ game was paced by Loyd’s nine points on three treys.

While Chillicothe gets set for another home game next, Trenton is to visit Princeton for its Grand River Conference-East opener Tuesday.