Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
With less than 90 seconds to play, needing the ball and trailing by two, Helias put a full-court press on Quincy Notre Dame that resulted in senior Adam Bax sitting on the court and directing the ball with a one-armed flail to his brother, Nathan, who successfully converted an and-1 layup to take the lead and send the Helias faithful into a tizzy.
It was about the seventh-most exciting moment Saturday night at Rackers Fieldhouse.
After 50 combined fouls were called, after 145 points were scored, after the lead changed hands nine times and before a shouting match ensued on-court between head coaches, the Raiders pulled out a 73-72 overtime victory against the Crusaders.
“It was just a very physical game from the tip,” Helias coach Josh Buffington said. “At times we didn’t handle it with enough composure and it affected the outcome I thought.
“We did some good things. We made some big plays. But we didn’t make enough little plays to win the basketball game.”
That Bax-to-Bax three-point play looked to be one of the biggest until Notre Dame regained the lead on a layup and expanded it to three points with two made free throws. The Crusaders called a timeout with 31.2 seconds to play, but the possession ended with a blocked shot. Luckily for Helias, the rebounding Raider stepped out of bounds shortly after corralling the ball and the Crusaders had a second life.
They still needed three points, though, and just about everyone knew where they planned to get them. Sam Husting had scored 18 of Helias’ points so far, hitting two 3-pointers and attempting six others — not to mention the long 2-pointer jumper he made with his foot on the line.
The Notre Dame defender was not fooled by Husting’s pump fakes, but the Helias senior managed to contort his body enough to find a window for the shot, which somehow fell in and tied the game at 58 with 17 seconds to play.
“It was a big-time shot,” Buffington said. “I wish we could’ve finished things.”
The Crusaders missed an opportunity to score with less than five seconds left when Notre Dame blocked a layup attempt, and an in-bounds tip play with less than a second left went awry as well.
The beginning of overtime did Helias no favors, as two players fouled out in the first five possessions. The Crusaders tied the game twice on Landon Harrison free throws and a third time on an off-balance shot in the lane by Husting, but they never held the lead in the extra period.
Nathan Bax cut a six-point Raiders lead to three at :14 on a three-point play and stole the ball back to give Helias hope, but Notre Dame inbounded a pass to run out the clock following a Harrison two-pointer.
Shortly after, it became apparent the action wasn’t quite over. The team’s head coaches jawed at one another, with Helias staff holding back Notre Dame’s Kevin Meyer.
Meyer’s was not an unfamiliar voice to the Rackers Fieldhouse crowd. He was displeased with a slew of early offensive-foul calls — five charges were called against the Raiders, including three in the first quarter — and eventually he received a technical to end the half.
A double technical was called shortly before that after an especially physical play, though Buffington said the ruling was later changed to a double foul.
“I think that really set the tone for the emotion in the basketball game,” Buffington said. “It was highly competitive, two good programs going at it. … We have kids that can play physical, we have kids that can battle through that stuff mentally but we just didn’t do a good enough job of staying tough but still turning the other cheek.”
Buffington declined to comment on the post-game yelling match, but said the game’s intensity was definitely a factor.
“I just think that our guys got to the point where they were more worried about that than playing Helias basketball,” he said. “It’s a learning lesson for our kids, and it can still help us down the road this season. … It’s just uncharacteristic for our group and we’re a team that plays with a lot of poise and composure. Win with class, lose with class.”
The Crusaders jumped out to a 7-0 lead to start the game but found themselves trailing at the end of the first quarter 14-13. Husting, who finished with a game-high 25 points, missed three of his first four shots and was just 1-of-8 in the first half.
“We struggled getting him involved, finding him looks,” Buffington said. “In the second half, he was able to create some more on his own after we had some movement.”
Husting took seven shots in the third quarter and made five of them, racking up 12 points in that frame alone.
“He had to just to keep us in it, to be honest with you,” Buffington said.
Harrison chipped in 16 points, nine of which came off free throws. Nathan Bax scored 12 points, all in the fourth quarter or later, and Trevor Koelling scored 12 as well.
Koelling and Adam Bax fouled out in overtime, which threw a bit of wrench into the Crusaders’ plans.
“It changes our lineup,” Buffington said. “Basically it takes us out of a lot of the things that we execute when we’re down to just one big on the floor. But we’re still able to spread people out and attack. We’re still able to run some motion and look to attack the rim, see both sides, but it does take us out of some execution moments.”
Helias (7-3) was coming off a three-point loss to Father Tolton in the championship game of the Great 8 Classic.
“We always say you learn more from a loss than you do a win,” Buffington said. “We’ve won some close ones and we’ve obviously lost two close ones in a row and it doesn’t get any easier. We go to C.B.C. on Tuesday and they’re a dominant Class 5 team in St. Louis and we’re going to have to be ready to play.
“You’ve just got to brush this one off and get back to work and we’ll be fine. It’s a long season.”
In Saturday’s JV game, Quincy Notre Dame posted a 61-46 victory against Helias. Alex Buschjost had 12 points for Helias (3-1), while Drew Boessen added 11.