CHS girls’ hoops season a wrap with all-MEC announcements

Lady Hornets junior Hicks all-loop; J. Reeter, Bonderer honorable mention

Paul Sturm
Chillicothe News
Three members of the Chillicothe High School basketball Lady Hornets received inclusion on the 2020-21 all-Midland Empire Conference teams announced Monday. Chosen all-MEC was junior forward Essie Hicks, center. Receiving honorable mention were sophomore guard Jessica Reeter, right, and freshman guard/forward Jolie Bonderer, left.

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor

More rapidly than he anticipated, Chillicothe High School girls’ basketball head coach Darren Smith closed out his seventh season of guiding the program last Thursday evening with praise for the 2020-21 Lady Hornets and recognition of team members’ postseason honors.

It became public Monday that junior forward Essie Hicks had been voted all-Midland Empire Conference for the recently-ended season, which saw the CHS girls post a strong 17-8 overall record.

Receiving honorable mention in the all-MEC voting were Lady Hornets sophomore guard Jessica Reeter and freshman guard/forward Jolie Bonderer.

Hicks led the Lady Hornets in steals per game (1.6), while being second to J. Reeter in scoring average (11.2 points) and second to Bonderer in rebounds (4.1). The 5’9” 11th grader also attempted (80) and made (51) the most free throws on the squad.

Point guard Reeter paced the Chillicothe girls on the season with a scoring average of 12.1 points a game, in assists (2.6), and free-throw percentage (69%).

She also topped the squad in 3-points baskets with 65, including setting a new program record with eight in the Feb. 1 home non-conference victory over Lathrop.

Despite standing only 5’8”, the ever-active Bonderer paced the Lady Hornets with 6.2 rebounds a contest, including a team-most 2.8 on the offensive glass. She also knocked down 27 3-pointers at a team-high clip of 45% and had the squad’s top accuracy inside the arc, as well, at 50%. That meant her overall 48% success rate from the floor also paced the squad (among those who played most regularly).

Hicks and J. Reeter previously had been announced as members of the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association’s Class 4 District 16 all-district team. The Missouri Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association is expected to disclose its northwest district all-district squads later this week.

In his season-summary remarks at last week’s postseason recognition event, Smith acknowledged the final record of 17-8 overall and 2-5 in the conference represented a downbeat conclusion to the campaign which saw the Lady Hornets possessing a very shiny 14-3 mark on Feb. 1, but offered context for the late-season dip.

Much of that came during conference play in a league which had as consistent a quality from top to nearly the bottom as has been the case in recent memory. Only St. Joseph: Lafayette had a squad not capable of beating any of the others on a given night.

While the final mark included eight defeats, two each of those were against eventual Class 4 state tournament fourth-place finisher St. Joseph: Benton and league champ Maryville, which many had expected to contend strongly for the Class 4 state crown before being upset by Benton in the district finals.

The home loss to Benton, he reminded, came on a BHS basket in the final four seconds that left CHS with a 45-44 loss. The psychological impact of that heartbreaking defeat is reflected in the fact that it began the 3-5 season-closing stretch for the Lady Hornets.

The other four defeats were to squads who finished their years with a composite record of 72-27 and two of those teams – Savannah and Smithville – also were defeated by the Lady Hornets in another meeting.

Not only did the CHS girls best those two, but they also posted victories over two state tournament-qualifying foes.

They bested Class 4 district champion Macon 48-40 in mid-December in what Smith said he found one of the most-satisfying victories of the season (Macon returned nearly its entire lineup from a squad which reached the state semifinals in 2019-20) and, even during the late downturn, walked into Kirksville’s gym and, with a dominant run late in the third quarter and early in the fourth, turned a deficit into a multi-possessions lead en route to a 48-39 road victory over a squad which won its Class 5 district tournament a couple of weeks later.

Observing that the season easily could have ended with at least 20 victories, Smith told the banquet crowd, “We had a bunch of highlights.”

During last week’s event, 2020-21 letters were awarded to a dozen players, only one of whom – Brooke Horton – is a current senior, suggesting a bright immediate future for the Lady Hornets. In addition, a pair of freshmen were given provisional letters that will become full-fledged letters if they letter next season.

Not only that, but assistant coach Terry McKiddyshared a recap of the junior-varsity season which saw Chillicothe go undefeated in 12 contests, including a small number of close games, but more runaways. He noted that six different young players led the JV Lady Hornets in scoring in those dozen outings.

Additionally, Roman Cranmer, who stepped into the vacancy when original freshman/”C” team coach Madison Busse and her family moved away in midseason, shared reflections on that squad’s season, which ended with six wins and only one defeat. Among its victories were sizable ones over historically-strong programs from Benton and Kansas City: St. Pius X.

“The group was very talented and fun to be around,” Cranmer shared.

During the program, Smith offered thanks to a variety of individuals and groups, including the program’s four managers. He especially singled out the high school and middle school custodial staffs for all of the extra work they put in to reduce potential exposure to the COVID-19 virus. Neither the Lady Hornets nor Hornets had to postpone or cancel any games because of too many Chillicothe players picking up the “bug” or having to be placed in quarantine.