By Zach Zook
CAMDENTON – The Chillicothe Hornets (14-2) last played basketball on January 9th, a game in which they lost only their second game of the entire season.
If there were questions that the Hornets could potentially be a bit out of sync, they were soundly answered in the fourth quarter Saturday. After trailing the Strafford Indians (11-6) by double digits early on, Chillicothe’s stingy defense pulled the team within seven at the break, courtesy of steals on each of Strafford’s final three possessions.
“I thought Isaiah Boone and Jon Burk really gave us a lift offensively,” said Chillicothe head coach Tim Cool. “That was huge momentum for us going into the locker room and any time you can get a little momentum against a good team it’s beneficial.”
Burk contributed four points going perfect from the floor, while Boone added an assist to the stat sheet.
Burk wasn’t the only player to have a perfect performance however, as senior leader Walker Graves quickly became the story for Chillicothe.
Graves led the Hornets storming back in the second half, spearheading a fourth quarter effort in which his team buried Strafford with 27 fourth quarter points, leading them to their eventual 54-38 victory.
“He played great and it couldn’t happen to a better kid,” Cool said of his senior big man. “He is such a great competitor and teammate. We got him isolated in the post several times and he was able to just go to work and score inside.”
For the game, Graves ended up with a whopping 26 points, 12 rebounds, and an assist, earning himself the game’s MVP honors.
“I’m comfortable with Walker just knowing that he’s doing everything he can to help us win a game,” Coach Cool added. “I have all the confidence in the world that he’s always thinking about the team first and that’s just how he is and how he plays. It’s infectious.”
Much was made about the Chillicothe offense, particularly in the second half, but it was the defense that closed out a Strafford team that totaled 93 points just a night ago against Ash Grove.
“The word ‘grit’ just keeps coming to mind when I think about our guys because they are tough and play so hard together,” the sixth year head coach said of his team’s tenacious comeback and defensive effort. “Our goal every game is to hold the opposition to under fifty. But I had no idea we could hold them to thirteen points in the second half. That was incredible.”
The Hornets next contest will come on the road against the Excelesior Springs on Tuesday night.