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Chillicothe HS Lady Hornets Drop Hoops Tourney Title Game Saturday

Fall to big, talented Maryville by 18; Hornets take consolation at Cameron

Paul Sturm
Chillicothe News
Junior forward Essie Hicks of the 2020-21 Chillicothe High School basketball Lady Hornets reacts to the approach of the ball on a baseline in-bounds play in the fourth quarter of last Saturday’s championship game of the Cameron Invitational Tournament. Hicks caught the pass before her Maryville defender could react, then drove across the lane to score from short range on the right side for two of her career-high 28 points. However, the rest of the Chillicothe roster provided only another 21 as Maryville pulled away in the second half to win, 69-41.

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor

CAMERON — Chillicothe High School’s basketball Lady Hornets survived one “dance with the (foul trouble) devil” in the 33rd-annual Cameron Invitational Tournament, but not a second.

Having advanced to the championship game with a comeback win over Smithville when point guard Jessica Reeter scored 14 fourth-quarter points after sitting out substantial portions of the first half with three fouls, the Lady Hornets (13-3) found the top-seeded Maryville Lady Spoofhounds less forgiving in that same situation Saturday in a 67-49 MHS title-game triumph.

With J. Reeter given the assignment of guarding far-taller All-Stater Serena Sundell first, she found herself sitting and watching for a good portion of the pivotal second quarter when CHS’ early offensive momentum faded enough for the Lady ’Hounds (14-1) to get in front by four at intermission.

When MHS scored the first seven points of the second half and then bridged the break between the third and fourth quarters with nine unanswered points to lead 59-43, the outcome of the first of two – and possibly three – meetings between two of last season’s Midland Empire Conference tri-champions (with Kansas City: St. Pius X) was set in cement.

The day wasn’t a waste for CHS basketball as, prior to the girls’ early-afternoon loss, the Hornets put together a crisp, workmanlike performance to down the host Cameron Dragons 60-41 in the boys’ division’s consolation final.

Chillicothe’s boys (11-4) will join the girls in hosting non-conference foe Lathrop Monday (Feb. 1) at 6 p.m. That contest was scheduled after each CHS team had a slated single appearance in the North Central Missouri College Foundation’s High School Holiday Hoops event over the holidays vanish when the event was canceled, due to COVID-19 complications.

The Hornets will follow that with a road game against St. Pius X Tuesday. After Monday’s action, the Lady Hornets will be off until Thursday when they are due to host challenging MEC foe St. Joseph: Benton on Thursday. Benton’s girls did not play in the Cameron tourney, as scheduled, due to a COVID-19 quarantine, but is anticipated to exit it prior to Thursday.

The Chillicothe girls’ Saturday game against Maryville, which will host the Lady Hornets in a couple of weeks, started turning south very gradually when J. Reeter’s foul difficulties removed a key offensive catalyst for a couple of different spells.

Although junior forward Essie Hicks picked up much of the slack, Chillicothe could not sustain its strong early scoring pace it had while netting the contest’s first seven points and, after Maryville and Kansas State University-bound star Sundell finally got rolling, closing the opening frame with five points in a row in the last 35 seconds for a 21-15 lead.

Having the opening possession of the second quarter, the Lady Hornets had a chance to build on that seeming momentum, but instead committed two turnovers in less than 10 seconds, resulting in a Sundell transition layup and Anastyn Pettlon’s second of five treys on the day, cutting the lead back to one.

Despite that, Chillicothe didn’t wilt.

Hicks’ shot from in the key was answered by another Pettlon triple, tying the game for the first time since the opening 40 seconds. J. Reeter’s driving 6-footer was matched by Rylee Vierthaler for another tie, but J. Reeter quickly untied it with a triple from left of the key at the 5:05 mark of the second stanza.

The next minute was scoreless before a perfectly-executed Maryville pick-and-roll produced a triple benefit.

Sundell dribbled past Emily Cassavaugh’s screen at the left of the key and, when two CHS defenders predictably reacted to make certain the MHS star couldn’t either drive toward the basket or take a quick 3-points try. That left Cassavaugh unguarded and heading to the basket, where Sundell’s pass gave her an easy lay-in. However, ill-advisedly, the outsized J. Reeter ill-advisedly tried to hurry over to stop the stronger and 5-inches-taller Maryville forward, succeeding only in committing a foul that didn’t stop the point-blank basket.

As a result of the sequence, the Lady ’Hounds not only got the basket, but a tying free throw and the Chillicothe floor leader’s third foul, relegating her to spectator status the final 3-1/2 minutes of the half.

The change in the game’s complexion as a result of that play began immediately, although it didn’t bloom fully until after halftime.

Exactly a half-minute after J. Reeter’s departure, Sundell pulled up and hit a trey from the top of the key, not only putting Chillicothe behind for the first time, but for good, it turned out.

Over the final 3:02 of the half, Sundell hit that “3,” rebounded her own miss and hit the putback while being fouled – resulting in a three-points play, hit another trifecta, and, in yet another Chillicothe breakdown on the defensive glass, missed a hurried shot from a tough angle in the last seconds of the half, only to step past a frozen Lady Hornet or two to grab the rebound and net another stickback with two seconds left for a 39-35 MHS lead at the mid-game break.

That half-ending follow shot was followed, after intermission, by Pettlon’s fourth 3-pointer, Cassavaugh’s drive from the top of the key for two, and, after two missed CHS free throws, yet one more Sundell stickback of her own miss.

Given that the MHS star routinely hits a healthy percentage of her first shots, those second-chance points were among the most-deadly CHS failures in the game. By contest’s end, the Lady Spoofhounds had hit five follow-shot buckets – four of them by Sundell, generating 11 second-try tallies. While Chillicothe managed eight second-chance points itself, that total is deceptive, since half of those came in the final 3-1/2 minutes after Maryville had iced the crown by taking a 20-points lead.

The disappointment of the defeat stung not only for its eventual margin, which reflected Chillicothe being outscored 52-28 in the last three quarters and 42-21 from the middle of the second stanza on, but because of the sensational start the Lady Hornets had.

On their first offensive possession after stopping Maryville, Hicks canned a left-wing trey in transition off Jolie Bonderer’s pass. About a minute later, after two more scoreless MHS possessions, J. Bonderer followed Hicks’ driving miss on a fast break with a putback of her own.

More than a minute later, with Maryville still not on the scoreboard, Hicks drove from the right wing and scored for a 7-0 lead after 3:06 of the action.

Even after Maryville’s offense finally began to click a bit, Chillicothe’s continued to sizzle.

In response to Sundell’s right baseline back-cut basket that the Lady Hornets also foolishly fouled on to reduce their lead to 9-6, Hicks struck again with a drive from the key to the paint where she smoothly sank a tough shot from 10 feet. Then, with her defender wary of another drive, Hicks flicked home a “3” from the top of the key, again set up by J. Bonderer’s pass. That made it 14-6, Chillicothe, with 2:40 remaining in the opening quarter.

Once again, Maryville – in the person of the 6’ Sundell – calmly countered with a pull-up trey and, once again, a right-baseline cut that got her free to take a pass and have a short shot while CHS fouled her yet again.

That cut the Chillicothe lead to two and, after a quick scoring drive by Lucy Reeter, Pettlon’s first “3” of the game had the margin at a single point less than two minutes after it was eight.

However, J. Bonderer sank a step-back trey from left of the key with a half-minute left in the quarter and, following an offensive foul on MHS, Hicks drove the length of the floor to hit a running 5-foot shot from the right edge of the paint four seconds ahead of the horn for a 6-points advantage after one.

However, there was an ominous statistic hiding in the otherwise shiny-for-CHS numbers in the opening segment. The Lady Hornets had nine scoring possessions in the frame to amass their 21 points, while Maryville put up 15 points while scoring on only five trips upcourt. It had three triples, but also Sundell’s two “and-1s.” That ability to net three points at a time, along with the 11 second-chance points it had through three quarters, was deadly to Chillicothe’s hopes.

Statistically, Sundell’s game-high 31 markers included four treys, three three-points plays (basket-and-1s), and nine putback points. Pettlon’s five trifectas contributed to a 19-points day for her and Vierthaler and Cassavaugh combined for 17 tallies. Those were the only four MHS players to dent the scoring column; the Lady Spoofhounds used only one reserve prior to the final 90 seconds.

Chillicothe’s girls received a team season-best and personal career-high of 28 points from Hicks. She was in double digits with 10 by the end of the first quarter.

J. Bonderer tacked on 10, but the other three Lady Hornets who scored combined for only 11. J. Reeter, who had seven at the time she picked up her third foul, never scored after that.

Adding to the frustration of the defeat was that Chillicothe unofficially limited its turnovers to nine, while causing Maryville to lose the ball 14 times.

Having corralled a long rebound on the defensive end and dribbled up court quickly in transition, Chillicothe High School basketball Hornets sophomore guard Griff Bonderer takes and hits a running 10-foot shot to give the Hornets a 26-15 lead over Cameron in the consolation game of the Cameron Invitational Tournament last Saturday. With Bonderer netting game-highs of 21 points, eight rebounds, four assists, and two steals, the Hornets took a 60-41 verdict.

The Chillicothe boys’ latest triumph saw them regain some of their offensive sharpness, in terms of execution, and, as a result, shoot a better overall percentage, team-wise, than in their two prior outings in the tourney.

The Hornets were over 50% from 2-points distance, a solid 36% from 3-points range, and a sizzling 81 percent (13 of 16) at the free-throw line as they turned by host Cameron by 19.

As the Dragons’ total of 41 points underscores, the Chillicothe defense was strong once more. In the tourney, it averaged surrendering just less than 47 points a contest. Even eventual tourney champion Maryville tallied only 51 against the Hornets in their first-round meeting.

Saturday’s contest saw senior Hayden Simmer and sophomores Griff Bonderer and Wyatt Brandsgaard do all of the scoring in the Hornets’ 20-points first period which ended with them up 20-13. However, only G. Bonderer scored in the second stanza, adding six points, but Chillicothe’s defense was nearly-equally stingy and the Hornets carried a 26-20 advantage to the locker room.

Another handful from G. Bonderer and seven by Simmer in the third quarter led to a 43-32 Hornets margin going to the fourth, during which they parlayed four field goals with 8-of-9 foul shooting to pull away.

G. Bonderer led all scorers with 21 points, going six of six from the line, and Simmer was close behind with 19 markers. That duo also shared the team rebounding lead with eight each. G. Bonderer added team highs of four assists and two steals.

Cameron had 10 points from T.J. Best.