Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
All five starters on the Helias boys basketball team posted double-digit scoring totals Monday at Rackers Fieldhouse.
If you’re going to drop 80 on someone, the points have got to go somewhere.
Nathan Bax had a team-high 20, as Helias defeated Battle 83-63.
“We preach team basketball,” Helias coach Josh Buffington said, “and I think this team has some of the best chemistry of any team I’ve had in my head coaching career. You could tell by the way we moved the ball, the unselfish play. And when that happens, when the ball flies around and these guys are on the same page you see a lot of guys produce.”
Trevor Koelling shot 4-of-4 from the field and hit eight free throws to score 16 points. Sam Husting shot 6-of-12 from the field, including three 3s, to post 15 points. Adam Bax had 13 points and just as many rebounds. And, backed by a 2-for-2 performance from 3-point land, Landon Harrison added 10 points.
Battle’s starting five, meanwhile, consisted of four guards, giving the Crusaders a size advantage they exploited.
“Some of our bigs can play on the perimeter and still take people off the bounce,” Buffington said, “So (they’re) very versatile kids.”
The Crusaders started the night slowly, failing to record their first lead until more than four minutes into the game.
“We came out flat in the first quarter,” Buffington said. “… Our hands were not active. We weren’t rotating off passes.”
An Alex Brandt 3-pointer with less than a minute remaining allowed Helias to squeeze a 3-point advantage out of the first quarter.
That shot foreshadowed a second-quarter surge that had the Crusaders up 28-18 before the period was halfway over. By the time halftime came around, Helias was up 16.
The 14-4 run was propelled by a number of baskets in transition, including a handful by Nathan Bax, who entered the halftime with 10 points, as did Adam Bax. A combination of seven first-half takeaways and quick passes out of defensive rebounds allowed the Crusaders to dictate their high-pace transition offense.
“Offensively we love to play fast,” Buffington said. “We’ve got bigs that have high motors, we want them sprinting to the rim, and any time you can throw over the top you want to take advantage of that.”
Helias stalled a bit out of halftime, turning the ball over on three of its first six possessions, but the Spartans got within single digits just once, on a Daviante Ostrander 3-pointer. It was not an uncommon sight, as Ostrander took 15 shots behind the arc, making eight of them. Overall he shot 12-of-24 and finished with a game-high 38 points.
“He’s been doing that against us for three or four years,” Buffington said. “He’s a salty shooter, he has unlimited range, and if you close out with your hands down or you’re not tight enough to him, he’s going to pull it.
“Big shooting night for him, but we’re going to live with 25-footers off one pass. For most kids, that’s a low-percentage shot, and we feel we can rebound those when he does miss. The defense has not moved much yet, so if he misses, we feel like we’ve got a chance to get something good out in transition.”
Making offense out of defense was the plan coming in, Buffington said.
“We just had to sit down and guard our guard and really lock into help-side defense,” he said, “whether we were one or two passes away and clog things up and close out hard on shooters. Our gameplan was 100 percent defensive. We felt like we could gain some offense off our defensive stops.”
The Crusaders shot 55.6 percent overall (30-of-54) and won the rebounding battle 37-22.
Helias (4-1) hosts Branson on Friday, with JV action beginning at 5:30 p.m.