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Chillicothe (Mo.) HS Basketball Teams Sweep East Buchanan in Opposite Styles

Girls pull away in stretch Thursday, Hornets barely hold on after big start

Paul Sturm
Chillicothe News
Despite a taller East Buchanan defender's attempt to stop the shot, 2020-21 Chillicothe (Mo..) HS basketball Hornet Hayden Simmer hits a tough inside shot to give the Hornets a 19-points lead late in the third period of Thursday's (Jan. 21) game in Chillicothe. Following Simmer's shot, East Buchanan turned red-hot, cutting the CHS lead to five in less than three minutes, but it never caught up and the Hornets won, 57-53. Simmer had a double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds and also blocked two shots.

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor

CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — Beginning a less-hectic stretch than previously projected, thanks to COVID-19-caused changes to next week’s Cameron Invitational Tournament, Chillicothe High School’s basketball Hornets and Lady Hornets posted inverse victories at home Thursday (Jan. 21, 2021).

After the Lady Hornets got a stronger-than-expected challenge from an East Buchanan team still playing without its Livingston County-connected All-State sophomore center before racing away down the homestretch of a 61-42 triumph, the Hornets burst from the starting gate to lead by 20 points in the first minute of the second quarter and by 19 with 8:10 left before seeing EBHS rocket back within the next three minutes before CHS held on to prevail, 57-53.

The twin triumphs leave the Lady Hornets possessing a shiny 11-2 record heading into a Friday trip to Marshall for what figures to be a competitive game at about 6:15 p.m. and the Hornets with a solid 8-3 ledger entering Saturday’s 2:50 p.m. game with the host Lakers at Camdenton’s annual “Shootout at the Lake.”

After those contests occur, the Chillicothe teams will participate – assuming no interference from the coronavirus – in next week’s revamped Cameron tourney.

That event’s girls’ division and the overall schedule underwent an overhaul Wednesday after St. Joseph: Benton’s Lady Cardinals, planned participants in the tourney for the first time in years, were forced into a COVID-19 quarantine for the near future. That followed a similar fate for St. Joseph’s Bishop LeBlond High girls’ team (not involved at Cameron) a day or two earlier.

Benton’s departure from the girls’ division dropped it to six teams and prompted adoption of a strictly pool-play format of round-robin action to determine the pairings for the three final-round games. Previously four of the teams were due to compete in “normal” bracketed play through the tourney and the other three, including Chillicothe, were to have round-robin pool play to sort themselves out for the finals.

As a result of the fewer games which will be needed in the girls’ division and the re-seeding which elevated the Lady Hornets from fourth to third, the schedule was reconstructed, eliminating what otherwise would have been the second overlapping action for Chillicothe’s varsity teams in two weeks.

The original schedule would have had the CHS girls and boys both in 5:30 p.m. contests in separate gyms next Tuesday. Now, while both still will play that evening, they’ll play consecutive first-round games in the middle school gym – the boys still against Maryville at 4 p.m. and the girls facing Lawson at about 5:30.

Then on Thursday, the Hornets will have either a 4:00 or 5:30 p.m. contest and the girls definitely an 8:30 p.m. start time against No. 2 seed Smithville.

Both Chillicothe teams are assured of a third tournament game either next Friday or Saturday.

Thursday’s home contests with East Buchanan intriguingly got flipped on their heads at relatively-similar points in the proceedings, although the boys’ did come right at the end of the third quarter, while the girls’ was at mid-quarter.

In the distaff opener, a competitive first half in which Chillicothe led most of the time and possessed a slim 23-20 lead at its end segued into a similar scenario the first 3-plus minutes of the second half.

When strong, skilled East Buchanan forward Lilly Schilling powered her way to back-to-back baskets – albeit separated by 90 seconds, the Lady Bulldogs (4-8) moved into the lead at 26-25.

An exchange of hoops – Jolie Bonderer’s left-side lay-in off Lucy Reeter’s setup and one more inside deuce by Schilling – left the visitors with another slight edge.

It would be their last, though.

Following a lineup change by Lady Hornets coach Darren Smith less than a minute before – inserting little-used sophomore Cali Burkhardt, who Smith considers one of the club’s best 3-points shooters, to be a threat against the EBHS 2-3 zone defense, Chillicothe quickly moved upcourt after Schilling’s second go-ahead shot and fed the youngster the ball on the left wing.

Given she had just entered the game for the first time and, with her taller and sturdier stature, didn’t seem likely to be a threat to shoot from beyond the arc, no Lady Bulldog moved out to guard her. That proved to be a mistake as, with no hesitation, she sent a high-arching set shot through the hoop from 19-plus feet, putting the home team back in front, 30-28, with 4:43 left in the third quarter.

With her team having just fallen behind by a point midway through the third quarter of its home game against East Buchanan High School Thursday (Jan. 21, 2021), little-used sophomore reserve Cali Burkhardt flips a 3-points shot toward the basket that swished and gave Chillicothe a lead it would preserve and enhance. By game's end, the Lady Hornets had prevailed by 19 points, 61-42.

That burst the scoring dam for Chillicothe.

Including Burkhardt’s breakout trey, CHS scored three points eight of the next 11 times it scored en route to 34-14 dominance over the contest’s last 12:45.

The Burkhardt trifecta not only ignited that long explosion, but also began a string of 11-consecutive Lady Hornets points in less than three minutes. Bonderer’s pull-up trey from halfway between the key and left wing, Jessica Reeter’s two free throws, and L. Reeter’s left-corner trey in transition meant what had been a 1-point East Buchanan lead barely three minutes before had morphed into a 10-points CHS advantage.

The hosts’ surge didn’t slow there.

J. Reeter answered two EBHS free throws with her own triple as she and L. Reeter swapped roles and a Schilling deuce – her last points of the game – was countered by another J. Reeter 3-ball.

Ahead 49-39 with 5-1/2 minutes left, the Chillicothe girls barricaded the door with a 10-0 run that gave them a 20-points lead in a contest they’d trailed by one exactly 10-1/2 minutes before.

Two J. Reeter free throws in the “bonus,” Essie Hicks’ three-points play trey off another L. Reeter assist, and – after both coaches cleared their benches – Kinlei Boley’s putback completed the game-clinching run.

Statistically in the girls’ game, Hicks’ sizzling start – 12 of the 14 CHS points in the opening frame, including two triples – led to a team-high total of 17.

Joining her in twin digits were L. Reeter with 14, Bonderer with 11, and J. Reeter with 10.

Two nights after struggling to get long-range shots to fall on the same floor in a loss to Kansas City: St. Pius X, Chillicothe sank nine shots from beyond the arc.

East Buchanan’s Schilling, carrying the load until young All-State pivot Gracie Kelsey can try to return to the club which, after losing to CHS in January, went on to win the Class 2 state crown a year ago, had a game-best 19 points. Shifty guard Maya Watkins, a 10th grader like Kelsey, chipped in 10.

The boys’ game script was like the girls’, except being run in rewind. The saving grace for the Hornets was that they managed to hang on and win.

CHS began the scoring just over 90 seconds in when senior Hayden Simmer, who might have had his best overall game of his career with a scoring-rebounding double-double, quick-triggered a 3-pointer from the left wing.

What followed was the Hornets also scoring on their next five possessions, as well – usually three points at a time, all the while blanking the Bulldogs.

Simmer followed his triple with an “and-1” as he was fouled on a left-side putback. Fellow senior Mason Baxter sank a free throw before Griff Bonderer cashed in the first of fellow sophomore Cayden Potter’s five assists from outside the 3-points line on the left wing.

A CHS steal by Bonderer that began with Wyatt Brandsgaard tipping a psss ended with Brandsgaard ahead of the pack for a cherry-picking layup that made it 15-0, Chillicothe, after five minutes of play.

Even when East Buchanan broke through to score at last, the Hornets’ offense kept purring. A pair of Simmer foul shots after he was hit releasing a 3-points attempt, Bonderer’s three-points play after he made a deep-backcourt steal and hit the lay-in, and, finally, Baxter’s right-wing trey just ahead of the buzzer off reserve Landon Winder’s kick-out feed sent the game to the second quarter with CHS in front 23-6.

Just under 50 seconds into the second stanza, the Hornets’ lead incredibly was 20 after Baxter found cousin Bonderer for a right-side trifecta. Less than a half-minute later, it was 21 as Simmer trumped a Bulldogs bucket with a right-corner “3” that earned Baxter another of his four helpers of the game.

When Chillicothe led by 16 at halftime, then took the lead back up to 20 in the middle of the third period, and held a 47-28 lead as the game entered the final 15 seconds of the third quarter, it seemed like it would be an easy stroll to the finish line for the home team. However, that changed in a big, big hurry.

With just under 10 seconds left in the third segment, EBHS senior Conner Musser hit a kick-out triple from the left corner. Ten seconds into the fourth period, classmate Drew Thompson connected from the same spot and the Bulldogs, although still down by 13, had some momentum.

Simmer tried to blunt it with a free throw after grabbing an offensive rebound – one of his 12 caroms grabbed in the game to go along with a team-lead-sharing 14 points, but the visitors sensed Chillicothe “blood in the water.”

With the Hornets suddenly looking slow and shaky at both ends of the court, “East Buck” buried three more treys in under 80 seconds, giving it five makes in a row from long range. When the fifth of those, by guard Kaden Woodside, found its mark, the CHS lead which had been a healthy 19 less than 2-1/2 minutes earlier now was a very unsteady five, 48-43.

Although it quickly would be matched by EBHS, a nice 7-feet bank shot from right of the lane by Potter shook the Hornets out of their lethargy a bit.

With the Bulldogs’ shooting finally cooling back off, Chillicothe got the game to the final two minutes with a 7-points lead. After a Bulldogs steal turned into a layup and 52-47 margin with just under two minutes remaining, the Hornets’ Bonderer and freshman center James Mathew critically made four free throws in the “1-and-1” without a miss and only five seconds apart to push the gap up to nine.

Even though East Buchanan scored six of the last seven points, the final two were moot, coming with six seconds left and the Bulldogs out of timeouts and unable to stop the clock from running out without the ball even being thrown in.

Statistically, in addition to Simmer’s double-double and Bonderer’s 14 points, Baxter continued his recent scoring uptick with nine points to go with his four “dimes” and Potter put together probably his best varsity game yet. He netted six points on 50% shooting from the floor, pulled down a half-dozen rebounds, and, as cited previously, dished off five times for scores.

Bonderer tacked on three steals and three assists to his points total and Simmer blocked two shots to go with his dozen boards.

Simmer and Bonderer combined to make five of the eight treys they tried, offsetting their teammates’ 1-of-8 struggles.

In a key team stat, after making only eight of 14 free throws in the first 3-plus quarters –including all three in a second-quarter stoppage when a foul call sent Eli Cross to the line for a 1-and-1 try and a technical foul on the East Buchanan coach for contesting that whistle gave Bonderer two tries, the Hornets buried five of seven in the last 100 seconds.

East Buchanan (7-6) finished with eight treys, two more than the Hornets. It was led in scoring by Thompson’s 12 points and Woodside’s 11.