After 7-consecutive losses to Maryville over prior three seasons, CHS boys ride strong overall effort, combined 19-of-26 shooting from floor by Pfaff, Brandsgaard tandem to 67-54 home triumph

CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — Having very narrowly avoided disaster in a “trap” game against Bishop LeBlond at St. Joseph in their Midland Empire Conference opener last Thursday, the 2019-20 Chillicothe (Mo.) HS basketball Hornets stamped themselves as very serious contenders for the program’s first Midland Empire Conference cage title since 2004 Tuesday night (Jan. 14) with a front-running 67-54 league home triumph over archrival and recent nemesis Maryville.

Despite some fine teams the past few years, the Hornets (9-3, 2-0 conf.) had not defeated MHS’ Spoofhounds since prevailing by 13 at home four years and two nights earlier, sustaining seven setbacks in a row since then – more than half of them by 13 or more points, including 23- and 29-points losses last season.

This time, a different tale was told.

“Lots of energy in the gym and a really good opponent and our guys showed up focused and played really well,” Tim Cool, highly-pleased Chillicothe head coach, commented in a post-game broadcast interview.

Referencing the game’s importance on the MEC front, he asserted, “It’s a big win. … We’re wanting to win a conference championship. To do that, you’ve got to beat people.”

The victory over a Maryville team which, while having a subpar season to date, had noticeably improved of late, including a narrow loss to defending MEC champion St. Joseph: Lafayette on the road last week, came in a contest the Hornets trailed only once – 6-4 – and for only about 10 seconds.

After senior star Westley Brandsgaard’s three-points play – the first of his game-high 28 points – erased that momentary MHS advantage with about 2:40 left in the opening period, Chillicothe never was behind again. The home club took the lead for good with about 90 seconds to go in the first frame when freshman Griff Bonderer stopped and popped from about 12 feet away on the right baseline for a 12-10 lead.

That deuce ignited a lightning-bolt run of 12 unanswered Hornets points in about 2:15. While it led by as many as 15 late in the first half and early in the second and eventually won by 13, the red-and-black had its resolve tested in both the third and fourth quarters.

An 11-2 Maryville surge in the first 4-1/2 minutes of the third stanza drew the visitors within six points. Another spell of CHS turnovers later in the period, one of which ended with a driving score by Spoofhounds senior Tate Oglesby, resulted in a 49-44 margin.

However, in what might well have been the game’s critical sequence, the Spoofhounds – down by that score and with possession with under 30 seconds left in the third frame – committed a violation which Chillicothe’s other primary weapon, senior point guard C.J. Pfaff, cashed in for a 3-pointer from about 23 feet away beyond the top of the key just ahead of the horn. Instead of having a lead which could have been carved down to two going to the last quarter, the Hornets were up 52-44.

Even though Chillicothe didn’t score in the first 2:40 of the closing segment, its defense limited the Spoofhounds to only a deuce in the first 4:20. When We. Brandsgaard converted a Mason Baxter pass to an inside bucket and then hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key midway through the quarter, Chillicothe once more owned a double-figures spread, one it largely kept the rest of the way.

“Our grit and determination was evident tonight,” Cool praised his club.

He assessed, “They kept chipping away at our lead … and we just stayed in the moment, had some great possessions, and just kept getting stops.”

Statistically, the pair of pistons which propel the CHS squad, especially on offense, was in prime form for the rivalry outing, combining for 53 points on laser-like 19-of-26 composite shooting success from the floor and perfection (all by We. Brandsgaard) from the free-throw stripe.

“What do you say about Westley and C.J.?” observed Cool, rhetorically. “Those guys are gamers. They really were ready to play.”

We. Brandsgaard, entering with a scoring average for the season of 20.5 points, popped and powered his way to the 28 (two shy of his career high) on 6-of-7 shooting inside the arc, 3-of-7 success beyond it, and a perfect 7-of-7 night at the foul line. Continuing to build a strong case for All-State consideration in his last prep season, he exited the contest with a 21.2 average on overall 56 percent shooting success from the floor and a 76 percent rate at the stripe.

“He’s so tough and determined and patient. He didn’t get rattled at all,” the Hornets coach said of strategic attention and physical pounding the fourth-year starter absorbed from the conference rival.

“I thought he was getting fouled a lot,” Cool said with unusual candor in his post-game broadcast comments. “I thought they were putting a thigh in his backside every time, trying to root him out (of the low post) and pushing him around and he just kept playing. He played through contact, got to the free-throw line.

“He’s special.”

That last statement is underscored by the fact that the sturdy, 6’3” senior’s contributions and energy aren’t restricted to the offensive end of the floor.

More than once this season, Cool has switched We. Brandsgaard’s defensive assignment in game to try to slow a foe doing a lot of damage early in the game. On occasion, the change has been to a taller inside player; other times, to a similar-sized player whose perimeter quickness and ability to drive and score has been creating a problem.

Against Maryville, smaller guard Caden Stoecklein, a freshman, had canned four baskets, including a triple, and twice drawn fouls he converted into four made free throws for half of the ’Hounds 26 first-half points. So, at halftime, Cool and his coaching staff agreed it was time to give  the freshman the “Westley” treatment.

The result? Stoecklein ended the night with those same 13 tallies.

“Wes just shut him down,” Cool said succinctly for emphasis.

Meanwhile, Pfaff, whose illness-sapped lower energy level likely contributed significantly to last week’s close call against Bishop LeBlond, was more than well when Maryville rolled into town. He was virtually unstoppable.

Asserting himself after a somewhat passive start to the contest, in the last two minutes of the first period, he drained two treys and capped a backcourt steal inside the last 20 seconds with a 2-handed flush that made it 17-10, CHS, after one quarter. Inside the first minute of the second stanza, he popped and hit another 3-ball in transition after one of We. Brandsgaard’s team-high (shared with Baxter) three steals. That gave him 11 points in less than three minutes of game time.

While he couldn’t keep up that volume pace, he did maintain his bullseye aim the rest of the night. At game’s end, he not only had pumped in 25 points of his own on five treys and five deuces, he had done so without missing from less than 19 feet – twice dunking – and while burying five of his seven tries from beyond the  3-points line.

“That’s pretty efficient,” Cool said with great admiration.

“… He was really feeling it in the first half especially (scoring 16 points). In range and in rhythm, he had some big 3s for us.”

As with his classmate/running mate, even with a current scoring average of 16.2 points per night, Pfaff’s value is far from restricted to putting the ball in the hole.

Even though he was credited with only one steal against Maryville – he’s averaging almost 2-1/2 a game, he ripped down a game-high eight rebounds to inch his average up to 7.5 and distributed seven of CHS’ voluminous 21 assists, more than twice his team-best average of 3.1 a contest.

While the impact of Pfaff and We. Brandsgaard is undeniably obvious and was again against Maryville, posting a 13-points victory Tuesday and 9-3 record to this point of the season has required more than two players, no matter how good.

Stated the head coach in his post-game interview, “Somebody you might overlook a little bit is (junior) Hayden Simmer.

“Hayden played a great game. As a guard, he rebounded well and he contested shots. He was really zoned in and played really well.”

In addition, Bradley Riley chipped in six points and two assists, junior guard and top defensive guard Mason Baxter, in addition to his three thefts on the night, hounded top ’Hounds’ player Oglesby. While the senior finished with a team-high 16 points, he was held to only two baskets and four points in the opening half, helping create the chance for CHS to seize its tone-setting 36-26 intermission advantage.

In addition, freshman guard Griff Bonderer, the team’s top reserve, had perhaps his best game yet. His first-quarter deuce that pushed Chillicothe ahead to start became part of a 4-points, 4-assists night that, Cool pointed out, also saw him take on guarding Oglesby for an extended stretch of the second quarter when Baxter was out with foul trouble.

For Maryville, supplementing the 16 tallies by Oglesby and 13 by Stoecklein was 12 by Trey Houchin, all on 3-pointers.

The Chillicothe boys will try to reach twin digits in wins Thursday night when they visit Marshall for another varsity/junior-varsity doubleheader, this time starting at 5:30 p.m.

Despite the presence of senior star guard Jace Lance, who will become the Owls’ all-time leading scorer with the first point he scores against the Hornets, Marshall enters with only a 2-6 mark.

Last year, in a mid-December meeting host Chillicothe won 76-58, Lance rang the bell eight times in 11 tries from outside the arc and finished with 39 points. However, Cool notes that production comes with an asterisk.

“We didn’t have Mason (to guard him) last year for that game. He had rolled his ankle the game before and couldn’t play,” the Hornets coach pointed out, hinting he doesn’t expect Lance to be as prolific this time.