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Hoops Hornets’ early second-half run sinks Lakers

CHS 15-2 surge boosts lead on way to 68-51 win

Paul Sturm
Chillicothe News
Sophomore forward Cayden Potter of the 2020-21 Chillicothe High School basketball Hornets, seen scoring from close range against Hamilton Jan. 12, tallied 10 points and grabbed five rebounds in lastSaturday’s 68-51 victory over host Camdenton. That continues a recent run of strong play by Potter after he recovered from a health issue. ( BUTCH SHAFFER / C-T FILE PHOTO )

CAMDENTON — Participating in Camdenton High School’s “Shootout at the Lake” for a sixth-straight year and facing the hosts for the third year in a row, the Chillicothe Hornets continue to make it seem like their visiting a second home at the Lake of the Ozarks.

Taking charge against the ultra-aggressive, but cold-shooting, Camdenton Lakers with a 15-2 run early in the second half, the Hornets (9-3) earned their fifth victory in six “Shootout” appearances, 68-51, last Saturday.

Having absorbed their only loss in the event to Camdenton in 2019, Chillicothe picked up a second-consecutive win over it by making the Lakers pay for pressing.

Applying man-to-man, full-court defensive pressure from start to finish, Camdenton did force enough turnovers with it that it could have been a winning approach. However, it’s repeated inability to hit shots, particularly within six feet of the rim left an opening the Hornets exploited by generally being efficient in finishing around the basket when they did break the press.

“They were really, really good about coming back to the ball and sharing the ball and finding that next pass and that got us a lot of opportunities at the back end,” Tim Cool, Chillicothe head coach, said of his team’s execution that made Camdenton (2-12) pay a penalty for its full-court pressure.

“We want to be patient at the front end of that and then really aggressive at the back end.”

While the Hornets managed to get short-range buckets with its press break throughout the contest, doing so repetitively in much of the third period was pivotal.

Kept on close terms in the first half by sophomore Griff Bonderer, who hit three triples and scored 11 points to aid in posting a 29-25 lead, Chillicothe opened the second half with a Wyatt Brandsgaard 3-pointer from the top of the key to create what then was the game’s largest spread, seven points.

A short time later, with the count at 34-28, the Hornets turned on the jets.

A tough scoop shot by senior stalwart Hayden Simmer ignited what would be the game’s decisive stretch.

It was followed by a three-points play by Cayden Potter, who continued his 2021 performance upgrade, and Brandsgaard’s turnaround, fallaway 6-footer in the paint that made it 41-28.

With Camdenton unable to buy a bucket despite some prime looks, sophomore reserve Landon Winder put back a teammate’s miss and Simmer laid in a 3-footer off Bonderer’s baseline throw-in to make it 11-consecutive Chillicothe points and a 45-28 advantage.

Even when the Lakers at last interrupted the string of Hornets tallies, the visitors had a ready response. Twice in a row as Chillicothe created a numbers advantage by beating the Camdenton backcourt pressure, senior guard Mason Baxter, who had a Hornets-high five assists, set up freshman pivot James Mathew for close-in deuces that meant 17 of the game’s last 19 points had gone on the visitors’ side of the scoreboard.

“I thought our execution changed in the second half because our guys were just a little more used to that (constant defensive) pressure,” assessed Cool.

“… Instead of wearing us down, it just made us more alert and aware of where the ball should go next.”

As demonstrated the night before against a less-frenetic East Buchanan offense, however, being in front 19 late in the third quarter guaranteed the Hornets nothing, particularly considering the potential for Camdenton’s press to cause bulk turnovers that could be into points rapidly.

However, whereas a flurry of “East Buck” treys quickly slashed the Chillicothe lead to five the previous evening, Camdenton’s inability to shoot accurately, even from point-blank range, prevented any significant erosion of this Hornets advantage.

After the Lakers did reduce their deficit to a dozen with more than five minutes left, consecutive Simmer deuces on a putback and a short drive on the right baseline after getting Bonderer’s sharp pass, Mathew’s two free throws, and a Baxter foul shot soon had reinflated it to the game-high 19 with 3:12 to go.

From there, it largely was a matter of playing out the string, even with seven Lakers points in a row getting it back within 12 with two minutes and change to go. Once more, the Hornets had the answer in the form of four Simmer charity tosses and one by Kyle Young to close the scoring.

“Our guys were really, really focused, locked in, and tough,” complimented Cool.

Statistically Saturday, Simmer’s game- and career-high 25 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field and 11 of 11 perfection at the foul line pushed his season average to a team-best 15.3 points. He tacked on six assists and three assists.

Generating his first varsity double-double, sophomore Bonderer hit four of his five attempts from deep, leaving him at 44% from there on the season, as he rang up 16 points to go with 11 rebounds. He also had four steals and four assists.

Potter scored 10 points, while ripping down five rebounds.

The Hornets’ game-long competitiveness and increasing crispness as the game progressed belied the unique situation the recent annual trips to Camdenton have provided. Because of the 3-1/2-hours trip involved, funds are raised during the offseason to allow the team to travel to Camdenton the night before. That overnight stay and the lengthy bus ride together also provides some team bond-building that Cool likes.

He wasn’t surprised, based on his previous experiences with his CHS teams and with what he’s seen from this year’s club that the Hornets played well despite the change in routine.

“They’re going to be ready to play, no matter what the variables are,” he saluted.

Next for Chillicothe’s boys is a Tuesday 5:30 p.m. first-round contest with Maryville.

The Spoofhounds lost to Savannah by 16 its last time out, although, in this season with the possibility of key players having missed any given game, it’s hard to put much stock in any specific win or loss.

However, Maryville’s boys have lost three of their last five and five of the past eight after opening 3-0, so there is more of an identifiable trend to suggest Chillicothe will have a reasonably-good chance of winning that tourney opener, even though MHS is the No. 4 seed and CHS No. 5.

Win or lose Tuesday, the Hornets’ second game will be Thursday, barring weather or other interference.