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Chillicothe HS Basketball Hornets Battle to Third in Tourney

Long surge from late first half to early fourth quarter keys 60-53 victory Saturday

Paul Sturm
Chillicothe News
Having cut to the basket along the right baseline and received a pass from James Mathew at the right elbow of the lane, Chillicothe High School senior guard Mason Baxter scores while drawing a blocking foul with just under two minutes left in the first half of Saturday’s third-place game against West Platte in the Lawson Invitational Tournament. Although he didn’t complete the three-points play, Baxter netted six key, consecutive points in the last 2-1/2 minutes of the half to pull the Hornets even and they went on to a 60-53 victory with Baxter providing 12 points.
  • Double-double in points, rebounds for frosh Mathew
  • Baxter scores in double digits for second game in row

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor

After their quick, 10-2 start faded to a 6-points deficit late in the opening half, the Chillicothe Hornets uncorked a decisive 26-8 surge from late in the second quarter to the first minute of the fourth which paved the way to a 60-53 victory over West Platte in the third-place game of the Lawson Invitational Tournament Saturday afternoon.

Senior guard Mason Baxter, not normally a major offensive threat for the Hornets (7-3), scored six points in a row in the last 2:34 of the opening half, knotting the score at halftime. Then, after WPHS’ Bluejays tallied four of the first five points of the last half, a 9-0 CHS run put the Hornets on top for good.

After Griff Bonderer’s left-side lay-in, freshman center James Mathew’s putback off one of his game-high 13 rebounds gave Chillicothe the upper hand at 33-32. Baxter’s left-side layup off another Cayden Potter pass as the Hornets broke the West Platte press and Bonderer’s “3” from atop the key off a Baxter “dime” boosted the margin to six.

The Bluejays tried to regain momentum with back-to-back deuces, but two Mathew free throws and another Bonderer triple set up by Baxter ended the third period with Chillicothe up, 43-36. When Mathew snared a Bonderer miss and hit the follow shot 20 seconds into the fourth frame and Potter provided an “and-1” on another press break, the game’s first double-digits lead was established at 48-36. Although the margin dwindled to five points twice after that, West Platte never had the ball with a chance to tie or lead thereafter.

Eventual all-tourney selection Hayden Simmer, who finished with a team-high 15 points, sparked Chillicothe’s crisp start against the pressing, free-wheeling Bluejays (7-5).

He hit a left-of-the-key “3” to begin the scoring and made it 5-0 with an easy lay-up off another Bonderer setup about 2:10 in. Following West Platte’s first field goal, Potter, back in the starting lineup after a recent health problem forced him to miss one game and play off the bench in the next, drilled a trey from the top of the key. Twenty seconds later, Matthew took a Potter pass and hit a left-side lay-in while being fouled for a 10-2 lead at the 3:51 mark.

The Bluejays, after a timeout, found their up-tempo-game groove when play resumed, drawing within 15-12 late in the opening period. However, Baxter sank a 10-feet pull-up jumper from left of the lane for a 17-12 game after one and Simmer’s pull-up shot from right of the lane at about 17 feet and a Bonderer free throw in the first 45 seconds of the second re-established CHS’ original 8-points lead.

Down 20-12, the smaller-school team from Weston caught fire. Consecutive steals produced deuces and, after Bonderer tallied inside on the press break, four triples in a row by the Bluejays gave them the lead at 28-22 with 2:47 to go in the opening half.

Instead of wilting, Chillicothe countered behind Baxter to knot the score by halftime and West Platte never was able to go on another run the rest of the way.

Statistically, CHS had several shiny numbers.

Mathew’s 13 boards were paired with 10 points for his first varsity-career double-double. Four of his points came on putbacks.

Baxter, with his 10 points, tallied in twin figures in back-to-back games for what is believed to be the first time in his career as a nearly-3-years starter. He hit five of his six shots from the floor and led the team with three steals.

Simmer’s team-high scoring total continued his consistency of being in or above the mid-teens. He’s netted between 14 and 21 points in six of the Hornets’ last seven contests; all six have been victories.

The approximately 6’ Bonderer not only had 13 points, making it four dual-digits scorers for the CHS boys for the first time this season, but also grabbed seven rebounds and was credited with a team-high five assists.

Unofficially, Chillicothe out-rebounded West Platte 40-26 and hit five of its seven 3-points attempts, part of an overall 54% shooting day from the floor.

Pacing West Platte in scoring was Ryan Pattison with 11 points.

The CHS boys have off until this coming Thursday, Jan. 21, when they’ll host another KCI Conference member like West Platte, East Buchanan. Two days after that, the Chillicothe boys will be in the Laker Shootout at Camdenton once more, facing the host team for a second year in a row, before entering the Cameron Invitational Tournament the following week.