In their Savannah Tournament opener, Chillicothe held on for a 52-46 win against Platte County hitting 9 of 16 free throws in the fourth quarter to squelch a rally. The Pirates received strong bench play from senior forward Nick Kunels and sophomore guard Kobe Cummings, helping them close within three points with 32 seconds to play.
However, Platte County’s inexperience showed early with five new starters and the majority of the players seeing their first meaningful varsity action.
“We’re just kind of running guys through, and we’ll probably do that a lot this week,” Platte County coach Rick Hodge said. “That’s what it’s going to be with this group: a process.”
Hodge said Kunels will likely move into the starting lineup, possibly as soon as the consolation semifinal against Bishop LeBlond scheduled for 4 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 2. He scored eight points before fouling out with 6:40 to go in regulation against Chillicothe.
Cummings’ playing time increased as Platte County ratcheted up the pressure late, trimming a deficit once as large as 21 points to a single possession.
Platte County junior forward Grant Carver scored six of his nine points in the fourth quarter, and Cummings and Kodee Martin hit back-to-back layups off back-to-back turnovers to pull the Pirates within 43-38 with 3:57 to go. Cummings split a pair of free throws in the final minute, and an offensive board off the miss led to senior guard Isaiah Ewing’s 3-pointer to make it 49-46.
Chillicothe made 3 of 4 at the line, and Platte County didn’t score again, unable to complete the comeback.
“We kind of raised our voices a little at them at the half,” Hodge said. “I’m not going to make excuses for them, but they played a little timid through the first half. A lot of standing and watching and hoping a teammate makes a play instead of playing together and off of each other.
“Then they started loosening up, getting in the flow of the game and doing those things a little bit better.”
Chillicothe hit its first four shots from the field, including 3-pointers for Brandon Lamp and Mayson Hayward, to take a 10-0 lead. The Hornets scored just two more in the final 6:16 of the first quarter, but Platte County trailed 12-7 and then ceded a 9-2 run to start the second quarter, prompting a timeout from Hodge.
Hayward added a second 3-pointer as the run swelled to 18-2 before the Pirates scored six quick late to be within 30-15 at halftime.
Jack Doole, another first-time starter, opened the third quarter with back-to-back and-one opportunities, cashing in five quick points for Platte County. Still down 30-20, the lead remained at double digits until the fourth quarter with Cumming ending a long scoreless drought with a three-point play at the 1:39 mark of the third quarter.
Jerod Thomas’ 3 late in the third quarter pulled the Pirates within 37-26, and Kunels scored four quick points in the first 36 seconds of the fourth quarter to make it 38-30. He just missed a tough layup after a quick turnover and then fouled out seconds later.
Cummings ended up with eight points and four steals thanks to the late surge in playing time, serving as catalyst for a comeback nearly completed.
“That’s what he gives us. He gives us that athletic wing that can run, jump, trap, pressure the ball,” Hodge said.
The consolation championship and seventh-place game for the Savannah Tournament are scheduled for Friday night.