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Basketball Lady Hornets’ win streak ended by SPX

Host CHS led briefly only once, couldn’t rally late in 47-42 loss Tuesday

Paul Sturm
Chillicothe News
Selby Miller, a junior serving splendidly in the role of “sixth girl” for the Chillicothe High School basketball Lady Hornets this season, triggers and hits a left-corner 3-pointer a minute into the second quarter of Tuesday’s home game against Kansas City: St. Pius X. Although Miller hit a triple in each of the first three quarters, teammates came up with only one between them, despite a decent number of good looks, helping contribute to the 47-42 Lady Hornets loss.

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor

A year after nearly rallying from a very early 17-0 deficit at Kansas City, the Chillicothe High School basketball Lady Hornets stayed much closer to the visiting KC: St. Pius X Lady Warriors Tuesday. It still didn’t help them win.

Quick guard Olivia White came off the SPX bench early and put up 14 points, including four clutch free throws without a miss in the final 30 seconds, to highlight a critical 47-42 Midland Empire Conference triumph for St. Pius X (10-1, 2-1 conf.).

“Things just didn’t work out,” verbally shrugged Darren Smith, CHS head coach, in a post-game broadcast interview. “When you play a good team like this, sometimes it’s a 50-50 game and tonight we just came up on the short end.”

The outcome snapped Chillicothe’s 9-games winning streak preceding an extremely-busy schedule the late part of this week and early next week.

The Lady Hornets (9-2, 1-1 conf.) were due to play four times in six nights, if the schedule holds true. They hosted East Buchanan as part of a girls’/boys’ twinbill Thursday and visited Marshall Friday before playing their two round-robin “pool” games in the Cameron Invitational Tournament Monday and Tuesday. None of those are conference outings.

For St. Pius X, a victory Tuesday was virtually mandatory for its hopes of repeating as MEC champion, a title it shared with Chillicothe and Maryville a year ago.

The Lady Warriors had lost to Maryville by four points the prior Thursday. With what figure to have been its three toughest league games now behind it, SPX will hope Chillicothe or St. Joseph: Benton or perhaps an improved Cameron team can knock off Maryville at least once to create the opening to repeat as at least a co-champion.

With its games against Maryville, Benton, and Cameron still looming, Chillicothe has a difficult challenge to repeat, but still controls its own destiny.

Tuesday’s CHS loss to St. Pius X was a 1- or 2-possession game throughout except for nearly a minute in the second quarter when the Lady Warriors held, first, a 22-14 advantage and then Chillicothe cut it to seven points on its succeeding possession.

When Lady Hornets’ reserve guard Selby Miller, after a loose-ball scramble, found Lucy Reeter underneath for a left-side lay-in with 5:15 remaining in the first half, the gap was five and never again was more than six.

However, Chillicothe’s chances and hopes of avenging the previous year’s loss and winning for a 10th-straight time vanished amid a nearly-unending string of missed 3-points shots.

Normally able to get long-range contributions from multiple sources, sometimes in bulk, on this occasion only Miller had any real success outside the arc, netting one in each of the first three quarters. The only other CHS trey came from Jolie Bonderer on the home team’s first field goal of the night less than two minutes into the action. Overall, official stats posted online by Smith show CHS making four of 18 trey tries, while SPX went seven of 14.

“It just seemed like, when we got the look that we wanted, it was maybe rushed more than we wanted to,” Smith reflected during a post-game broadcast interview. “We need to get something going more inside, but it was really hard to get inside. It was like we were playing against seven (defenders) instead of five. I thought they did a really good job of guarding us when they were in that zone.”

The contest never really had a precise line of demarcation at which St. Pius X established clear control, yet Chillicothe spent most of the game playing uphill.

Early, the game was tied at 1-1, 4-4, and 6-6, but each of those occasions saw CHS answering a score by the Kansas citians. Once the Lady Warriors scored on White’s drive from near the right elbow of the lane for an 8-6 lead exactly midway through the first frame, the only occasions the Lady Hornets weren’t trailing were three times in the first two minutes of the second half.

Sophomore guard Jessica Reeter of the Chillicothe High School basketball Lady Hornets gets past Kansas City: St. Pius X defender Olivia White for a layup after making a steal at the other end of the court about 2½ minutes before halftime in Tuesday night’s Midland Empire Conference game in Chillicothe. The basket drew CHS, which had trailed by eight points earlier in the quarter, within a point. However, eventually, White’s 4-of-4 free-throw shooting in the last 30 seconds of the game helped SPX win the battle, 47-42.

Having used a run of seven unanswered points across 3:10 of the second stanza to claw back from a 22-14 lead St. Pius X had briefly assumed on Natalie Rippy’s right-wing triple, Chillicothe quickly flipped the 2-points deficit it had at halftime (26-24) to a 2-points lead in the opening 65 seconds of the third quarter.

Lucy Reeter’s pull-up jumper from about 11 feet on the right baseline tied the game at 26-26, the first deadlock since White’s first-quarter go-ahead drive.

On the next CHS possession, Bonderer got the ball near the right block and fed center Brooke Horton just inside the foul line for an open “J” that tickled the twine. With 6:58 on the third-quarter clock, the Lady Hornets had their first lead and, with a mini-run of six unanswered tallies bridging intermission, a flicker of momentum.

The “mo” – and the lead – didn’t last long and Chillicothe never got either back.

Uchenna Anikwe, whose two quick fouls forced White into the contest before it was three minutes old, put the visitors right back on top with her only basket of the night – a trey from the top of the key only 23 seconds after Horton’s go-ahead hoop.

Fourteen seconds later, Bonderer drew a foul while shooting, but made only the first of her two shots, leaving the score tied for the last time at 29-all.

St. Pius X went down the court and reclaimed the lead for keeps with a quick, spinning drive from the left low post area and lean-in bucket from top scorer Ashley Hall. Hall, who bottomed three 3-pointers without a miss in the first six minutes and another 70 seconds into the second stanza, ended the night with 21 points.

“We lost her several times early – she’s a really good shooter and she was extremely hot to start the game,” Smith recapped. “She hit three (3-pointers) in the first quarter and that was a big part of (the game’s result).”

Hall’s go-ahead deuce with 5:54 to go in the third quarter tipped off her team’s own 6-0 mini-run for a 35-29 lead. Although the Lady Hornets scratched back to within 37-35 at quarter’s end when Miller’s double rim-circler finally spun down into the net for a triple, they never got any closer.

Given the consistent, if not fast, scoring pace both teams had most of the night, the middle of the fourth quarter saw the scoring heat turned down significantly.

After the left-handed White drove from the key down the left edge of the lane for a layup and 42-37 lead with 5:05 left in regulation time, neither side scored for nearly four minutes.

Finally, two Essie Hicks free throws at the 1:18 mark made it a 1-possession game once more. However, after Chillicothe – with only one foul to that point in the half – fouled outcourt five times in about 30 seconds to get to the brink of putting the Lady Warriors on the line, the seventh team foul sent the sharp-shooting Hall to the stripe for a bonus opportunity. Although she made only the first, that made it a 2-possessions game with 43 seconds to go.

The Lady Hornets then missed twice at the line on the other end and St. Pius X rebounded, leading to White’s four clutch free throws that sewed up the SPX victory.

Statistically, Hall and White combined for 35 of the winners’ 47 points. The Lady Hornets had better balance, being led by Bonderer’s 12 and Miller’s nine with four others netting between four and seven, but the volume wasn’t quite enough.

Just as the final score and the in-progress score through the game was close, so were virtually all of the game’s statistics, outside of the winners’ 8-4 advantage in treys and, seemingly, the respective shooting percentages from the floor.

Unofficially, Chillicothe had two more rebounds, but one less assist and two more turnovers.

Of his team’s offensive malaise, Smith opined, “Our offense was just out of sync a little bit all night long. We couldn’t make shots and we were stagnant in it.

“I felt like we had turnovers in the wrong place at the wrong time. We were playing a really good team that makes you do things like that.”

Both development-level games went Chillicothe’s way.

The junior-varsity rallied in the final couple of minutes to edge the JV Lady Warriors 28-27 behind excellent scoring distribution. Izzy Montgomery’s leading nine points were backed by eight each by Kinlei Boley and Delanie Kieffer.

CHS dominated the “C” (mostly freshmen) game 40-9.