Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
When you give up the game’s last 11 points and get outscored by 15 in the fourth quarter, you’re usually not cheering at the end of the game. That is, unless you had as strong of a first three quarters as the Helias girls basketball team did Thursday.
The Lady Crusaders accrued a 23-point lead by the end of the third quarter and were never in jeopardy of losing it, beating Boonville 55-47.
Helias jumped out to a six-point lead after one quarter and scored 19 points in each of the next two.
“That’s what I always talk to them about, is we have to come out and set the tone,” Helias coach Sarah Eagan said. “Because the first few minutes sets the tone and shows how we’re going to play the rest of the game. So coming out that strong, I knew the rest of the game would come a lot easier to us.”
The Lady Cruaders built their early lead almost entirely off the play of Mai Nienhueser, who scored 11 of Helias’ 12 first-quarter points. Boonville center Jamie Lemmons was called for two early fouls, opening up the post for Nienhueser.
“That was huge,” Eagan said. “Mai stepped up to the plate really well tonight. We know she’s capable of doing that. (Lemmons) is really good, and we were afraid she would guard Mai pretty well, but getting her in early foul trouble allowed Mai to step up and get a lot of points for us.”
Helias used a 10-2 run in the second quarter to get 22 points on the board before the Lady Pirates were in double digits.
Ashley Rehagen began the quarter’s scoring for Helias with back-to-back 3-pointers.
“Last game, against Tolton, she didn’t even look for a 3, so it was good to see her actually take the opportunity and step up to the plate,” Eagan said. “We just need her to continue doing that, because she is our outside shooter, and it’s nice that she can draw defense out so we are able to like inside to the post play.”
The teams combined for 23 turnovers in the first half, but the Lady Crusaders made the most of them, going into halftime up 31-15.
In the third, Rehagen hit her third 3 on three attempts as Helias matched its 19-point mark from the second. Between the two quarters, they shot 48 percent from the field (14-of-29) and hit all six free-throw attempts.
“These last few games, defense has been our strength,” Eagan said. “So stepping up on offense is great for us to look at, especially coming into districts, just to know that we can do things offensively.”
The Lady Pirates had eight of the 10 field goals made in the fourth quarter, but much of the damage came against Helias’ bench.
“We wanted to see what our subs could do,” Eagan said. “There’s a lot of games that have been close here lately, so we haven’t got minutes for them, so it’s good to get them minutes and see what they’re capable of, but it got a little scary.”
Boonville hit seven of its final eight shots from the field and scored 11 points within a four-minute span. Lemmons had eight of her team-high 15 points in the quarter, making all her shots from the field and the free-throw line.
Nienhueser finished with 16 points to lead Helias, all of which came in the first half.
Helias (14-10) plays Thursday at Rock Bridge.