Late Trey by Bonderer Rescues Chillicothe (Mo.) HS Basketball Hornets Monday

Scoreless for the previous seven minutes, sophomore's shot delivers 32-31 Class 4 District 16 tournament win over host Savannah, makes CHS boys 15-9

As reported to C-T
Chillicothe High School basketball Hornets Griff Bonderer, left, and Mason Baxter (35) defend as Savannah's Quay Jeter attempts a driving shot in the final seconds of Monday's Class 4 District 16 Tournament quarterfinal game at Savannah. Jeter's shot, perhaps partially blocked by Bonderer's left hand, missed, preserving the 32-31 CHS victory provided by Bonderer's 3-points shot with about 10 seconds remaining.
  • Hornets earn crack at avenging 2019, ’20 district losses to Richmond Wednesday

SAVANNAH — Maybe it was a sign of postseason magic for the Chillicothe (Mo.) HS basketball Hornets Monday night.

A game they trailed by seven points before they scored, then led by seven with five minutes left in the opening half, entered its final 20 seconds with the Hornets having made two baskets in the nearly 21 minutes since they held that 20-13 lead, yet trailing host Savannah by merely two points, 31-29, albeit after surrendering the seven most-recent tallies.

With that extraordinary stretch of offensive somnambulance – and their own determined defensive effort to stay on close terms – as the backdrop, the CHS boys rebounded a missed Savages free throw with just under 29 seconds to go to gain possession for effectively one last chance at scoring to either tie or win the game.

After a pair of timeouts, the Hornets swung the ball to the left wing to a player who had made only one of his seven prior shots from the field in the game, including misfiring on all five of his tries from 3-points distance.

Probably wisely, considering his own struggles and the team’s 33% success rate from the floor through the first 31:45, Hornets sophomore Griff Bonderer caught Mason Baxter’s pass with about 12 seconds on the clock and, his feet set, jumped and fired a trey attempt. If it missed – again, at least it would offer the opportunity for a possible CHS offensive rebound and perhaps another try or two or, if Savannah grabbed the carom, a chance to stop the clock with a foul with still nearly 10 seconds left and hopefully have Savannah make only one of two potential free throws.

However, in sharp relief to the game’s dominant storyline of errant shooting, Bonderer buried his triple, jolting the Hornets back into the lead with 10 seconds to go.

Following two SHS timeouts, Savages guard Quay Jeter’s driving shot amidst heavy traffic to the left of the basket bounced off with about three seconds left. When the rebound deflected off several reaching hands to the rim’s right and out to the wing, time ran out and, against reason, fifth-seeded Chillicothe had downed No. 4 seed Savannah on the SHS floor for a second-straight Monday night.

As a consequence of their befuddling victory, the Hornets improved to 15-9 and gained the chance to take on top-seeded Richmond on the road Wednesday night at 6 o’clock.

Seven nights after Chillicothe’s boys had spanked Savannah 53-38 on the Savages’ own floor, the Hornets found an opponent more than ready to get some “evens.”

Savannah (8-13) – whose veteran head coach Nick Kemerling plans to step down before next season, CHS head coach Tim Cool noted in a post-game broadcast interview  – controlled the opening jump ball and hit its first shot on each of its first three possessions, beginning with Wes Darnell’s 3-pointer. At the same time, the Hornets were misfiring twice and turning the ball over once as they sagged into a 7-0 hole inside the first 2-1/2 minutes.

Foretelling what their night would be like on the offensive end, the Hornets needed another two minutes of game action after Savannah grabbed that lead to score their first points.

Finally, though, after about 4-1/2 pointless minutes, CHS senior Hayden Simmer slipped into the lane to hit a shot while drawing a foul. Converting the three-points play, he relieved some of the pressure off the Hornets’ attack.

Over the next 75 seconds, Simmer twice answered Savages’ 2-points shots with triples of his own, the second of which began a 9-0 Chillicothe run which lasted about 2-1/2 minutes and vaulted them ahead 15-11 15 seconds into the second quarter.

Following a SHS bucket that cut the string of consecutive CHS tallies, Hornets senior guard Mason Baxter drove and arched a soft shot high off the glass and in and sophomore forward Cayden Potter knocked down a trey which made it 20-13, Chillicothe, three minutes into the second frame.

That flurry soon became a fading memory.

Typical of the entire game, Chillicothe (Mo.) HS basketball Hornets freshman James Mathew (25) and Wyatt Brandsgaard present a defensive stonewall to a would-be Savannah shooter close to the basket in the first quarter of Monday's Class 4 District 16 Tournament game at Savannah. Chillicothe limited Savannah to only 31 points all night, which was absolutely necessary for Griff Bonderer's late trifecta to produce a season-extending, 32-31 CHS victory.

Potter’s shot turned out to be the Hornets’ last points of the half, but the 5-minutes scoreless stretch didn’t cost them the halftime lead. Their defense held the home team to only two points across that same span, sending the teams to the locker rooms in a 20-15 contest, Chillicothe on top.

Not quite two minutes into the second half, CHS freshman center James Mathew canned a foul-line jumper, ending the Hornets’ pointless stretch after nearly seven minutes. However, between then and Bonderer’s game-winner, Chillicothe would sink only one more field-goal try – Simmer’s third trey of the game about a minute before the third period ended.

Their shooting difficulties notwithstanding, the Hornets still headed to the last segment with a 3-points lead, 27-24, and, when Simmer drained two free throws approximately 45 seconds into the fourth period, the gap was five.

Tempting fate, Chillicothe did not score again until the decisive trifecta with just over 10 seconds remaining. Yet somehow, despite being blanked for stretches of seven minutes, 6-1/2 minutes, and 4-1/2 minutes, at nearly the last instant, it prolonged its season by at least a couple of days.

Statistically, Simmer’s 14 points led all scorers. The next-highest Hornet had seven. Savannah’s Darnell netted 11.

Chillicothe’s official statistics sheet listed it as hitting 35% of its field-goal attempts with virtually no difference between its work inside or outside the 3-points line. Somewhat surprisingly, its 11 total field goals yielded 10 assists, a team-best four by senior reserve guard Eli Cross.

The saving grace for the Hornets – aside from their tenacious and tireless defending – was that they hit all five free throws they were awarded, compared to Savannah finishing two for six.

Wednesday’s date at Richmond will be an opportunity, even if a long-shot chance, for some major payback for the CHS boys.

Two years ago, with a crack at a Class 3 district title beckoning at Higginsville, the Hornets let a 28-23 lead at the start of the fourth quarter vanish and then turned the ball over while trying for a potential game-tying shot in the last 20 seconds as they fell to Richmond, 38-35.

Last year, at home and as the district’s clear-cut favorite, Chillicothe led Richmond by double digits in the third quarter and still by multiple possessions in the last couple of minutes, only to see the Spartans hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with about a half-minute left.

With still plenty of time to erase that tiniest of deficits, the Hornets never managed to get a shot to the rim, calling a timeout just as one promising opportunity started to develop and then seeing a well-anticipated shot attempt blocked with about 10 seconds to go. Richmond recovered the rebound of the block and eventually ran out the clock on a 53-52 victory without the Hornets managing to foul to stop the clock.

When the Hornets and Spartans renew their postseason rivalry – Richmond’s heavily-favored football team ended CHS’ season last fall, although only after the upstart Hornets led at halftime and still were close late in the third period, Chillicothe will have the chance to play the “spoiler” role against an opponent expected to win decisively. 

Richmond (20-3) not only enters with the better record this time, but with a combination of size and outside shooting skill. It has athletic, 6’3” junior forward Keyshawn Elliott, 6’8”, 280-pounds man-mountain sophomore Jack Gogue, and sniping junior guard Layne Cavanah, any of whom can do major damage, as well as another outside shooting threat in 6’ Wyatt Covey.

Despite being out-sized both in height and girth, Chillicothe will have to find a way to negate Gogue and his soft shooting touch within six feet of the basket and keep both he and Elliott off the backboards. If it gets the golden opportunity it blew last year when Gogue picked up two first-half fouls and a third early in the second half, it must make the Spartans pay for any time the big center might lose to foul problems.

Devoting extra manpower to surrounding Gogue would run a big risk with Cavanah’s and Covey’s perimeter shooting prowess and/or Elliott’s presence as a scoring threat from 10 feet in.