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Chillicothe (Mo.) HS basketball squads capture tourney openers Tuesday

Girls win by 60 over Richmond, boys by only 11 over Hamilton: Penney as they started Lawson Invitational Tournament play

Paul Sturm
Chillicothe News
Junior reserve forward Clara Leamer of the Chillicothe High School basketball Lady Hornets attempts a short-range, second-quarter shot during Tuesday’s 73-13 Lawson Invitational Tournament first-round victory over Richmond. Although this try missed, Leamer, who’s birthday it was, coach Darren Smith noted, did find the target twice in the second half as the Lady Hornets improved to 8-1 on the season.

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor

LAWSON, Mo — Chillicothe (Mo.) High School’s varsity basketball teams successfully tipped off their first-time play in the Lawson Invitational Tournament Tuesday (Jan. 12) with first-round victories.

The top-seeded Lady Hornets didn’t surrender a field goal in the first 11 minutes and eventually posted the last 29 tallies over the last 11 in a 73-13 cuffing of Richmond.

The CHS boys, behind a career-best 21 points by sizzling senior guard Hayden Simmer, followed with a tougher-than-some-projected 49-38 decision over a Hamilton: Penney team they’d clubbed by 30 in both sides’ season openers just before Thanksgiving.

Chillicothe High School basketball Hornets senior Hayden Simmer prepares to go up and hit the first field goal of Tuesday’s game against Hamilton: Penney in the first round of the Lawson Invitational Tournament. Simmer not only hit this shot, but all eight of his attempts from 2-points distance, as well as one of two 3-points attempts and both of his free throws as he scored a game- and career-high 21 points in the CHS boys’ fifth-straight victory, a 49-38 decision.

Chillicothe boys’ head coach Tim Cool was not among those expecting a repeat or near-repeat of that first meeting, even though his club (6-2), winner of five in a row, has improved.

“They’ve improved a lot and we knew that they would,” Cool asserted in a post-game broadcast interview. “They’d only had two practices (prior to the November game) and they were without one of their starting players – their point guard (Jared Potts).

“We knew it would be a different game.”

By surviving and advancing to Thursday’s championship semifinal against Gallatin, the Hornets made official an oddity – overlapping action for the CHS teams.

With the 27th-annual tournament fully utilizing both its high school gym and its new Barker Center gym (built partially with FEMA funds to serve as a community shelter in case of emergency) on a staggered schedule, the Chillicothe boys’ clash with Gallatin will tip off at about 7 p.m. in the high school gym and the CHS girls’ duel with Hamilton will start about a half-hour later in the Barker Center about 20 yards away.

The ever-respectful Cool said Gallatin’s Bulldogs, 67-47 winners of Lawson Tuesday, will be a handful.

“They’re very good,” the Hornets boss declared. “(Senior assistant coach Tim) Cunningham and I went and watched them on Saturday and they’ve got a really nice squad.

“They’ve got a couple of tall, lanky kids. They’ve got a ‘banger’ inside and they’ve got a kid who’s kind of a wing player, but he can also get inside and score around the basket, and they’ve got an old-fashioned, pass-first point guard. So they’re going to be tough.”

In the GHS boys’ Tuesday triumph, Isaac Bird scored 21 points and Payton Feiden 12. Two others had nine each, all of Johnny Stout’s coming on 3-pointers.

However, he expects his team to be ready for the challenge.

“I like the energy and effort our guys are putting out there every day and we’ll have to have that,” he remarked.

Chillicothe’s girls will try Thursday to replicate their season-opening 48-24 win at Hamilton.

“He’ll have something designed for them to help them be successful,” Darren Smith, CHS head coach, said Penney head coach Jordan Richman.

“You just can’t take anything for granted” just because the previous meeting ended one-sided, Smith cautioned, recalling that the November contest was only 19-13, Chillicothe, at halftime.

A minute into the second period of Tuesday’s boys’ tilt, Cool’s expectation of a more-challenging rematch with Hamilton didn’t seem to be holding water.

Riding hot shooting during a 14-4 run and typical pesky defense, Chillicothe owned a 21-10 lead in the opening minute of the second stanza.

“They came out and they were focused and ready,” Cool saluted his players.

However, Justin Joiner’s Penney High Hornets stabilized on both ends of the court and netted 12 of the last 16 points the remainder of the first half to close to within 25-22 at intermission.

“The first quarter came kind of easy (for Chillicothe), as far as offense,” reflected Cool afterward. “The second quarter, we kind of thought, ‘Well, we can just shoot it and it’s going to go in.’

“We didn’t work real hard offensively in the second quarter and they worked really hard defensively. They were getting to the rim (on offense) and we were settling for jump shots.”

Twice in the first 2-1/2 minutes of the second half, determined Hamilton (2-7) closed to within two points, but it never had possession with a chance to lead after Chillicothe first took a multi-possessions lead 3:15 into the action.

After Tucker Ross drew Penney within 27-25 with 5:40 on the third-quarter clock, Chillicothe made the game’s defining push over the next 3:35.

After Griff Bonderer canned a left-wing trey off one of senior guard Mason Baxter’s game-high seven assists, Simmer – eight of nine from the floor in the game – made a slick left-handed, reverse layup to finish a drive from the right baseline. Simmer and Baxter then teamed to create a mid-court turnover with Simmer slipping ahead of the pack to take Baxter’s pass for an uncontested layup that created a 34-25 gap.

Following Stephen Henry’s deuce for Hamilton, Simmer cashed in an easy left-side lay-in off a nifty pass from Cayden Potter and Bonderer made a free throw to make the margin 10.

“We made some adjustments against their zone and got some easy baskets there on the weak side,” Cool disclosed to reporters.

Hamilton made one final bid to put the outcome in doubt when Nate Wyckoff’s hustling steal and layup with a second left ended the third period and Andrew Rich’s short shot from the right baseline 40 seconds into the fourth made it 37-31.

Chillicothe responded with nine of the next 11 points over the course of 4:20 to establish the game’s widest spread – 49-35 – with 2:50 remaining.

“Defensively, our goal was to hold them under 40 and we did that,” Cool noted.

Statistically in the boys’ contest, Simmer’s near-perfect shooting from the field and his pair of free throws without a miss allowed him to lead all scorers with his new career high of 21 points. His previous best had been 20 in the preceding outing.

Simmer’s only miss of the night was on one of two trifectas he tried. Behind his 8-of-8 work inside the arc, Chillicothe made 73 percent (16 of 22) of its 2-points attempts. The 12th grader also shared the team lead in steals with Baxter with three.

“He got in a pretty good rhythm,” understated the CHS head coach about the lanky wing guard who is leading the team in scoring on the season with exactly 15 points a contest.

Sophomore guard Bonderer joined Simmer in double figures in scoring with 11 points and led the winners’ rebounding with six.

Hamilton, which will face Lawson Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the consolation semifinals, had their scoring paced by Rich’s 18 points. He also shot a very high percentage from the floor.

Prior to the boys’ contest, CHS’ top-seeded Lady Hornets (8-1) strolled to a seventh-consecutive victory.

Beginning with Jolie Bonderer’s free throw 20 seconds in, the Lady Hornets (7-1), as expected, never trailed. Up 23-2 after one quarter, by the time Richmond netted a 3-points shot with 4:14 to go in the opening half, Chillicothe possessed a 30-4 lead. At halftime, it was 41-9 and every CHS player already had seen the floor.

“A lot of times it’s difficult, trying to get your (primary) kids some time without running the score up,” Smith observed. “We don’t want to run the score up on anybody.”

Helping multiply that intermission lead were seven trifectas, five of them by sophomore point guard Jessica Reeter, including three in a 95-seconds span of the first quarter.

The Lady Hornets finished with nine treys and three three-points plays.

“What our goal in a game like this is we want to guard as hard as we can through the whole thing,” Smith confided in his post-game broadcast interview. … We had a little lull there in the second quarter where I thought we got a little lazy. … Mentally (on both offense and defense), we checked out for a little bit, but the girls brought it right back.”

Statistically, the CHS scoring was led by J. Reeter’s 18 markers, two off her career high set as a freshman. Her five triples were two away from Jordan Hibner’s single-game team record.

Junior forward Essie Hicks tacked on 14 points and a team-most five assists.

Freshman Jolie Bonderer unofficially snagged nine rebounds and senior post player Brooke Horton seven.

All 13 Chillicothe players who were in uniform played extensively and scored at least one basket. One – junior Clara Leamer – drew special notice from Smith.

“She scored a couple of ‘birthday buckets,’ so I’m happy for her,” he stated.

In Tuesday’s other girls’ game in the tournament, second seed Lawson romped past Gallatin 55-13.