Lady Crusaders set for tough first-round matchup

It will be a full weekend of basketball in the State Farm Holiday Hoops Invitational for the Helias Lady Crusaders.

And a tough one as well.

“You could play three pretty good games and come out of this 0-3,” Helias coach Doug Light said. “There are some tough first-round matchups all over the board.”

Helias (4-1) opens the Invitational at 5:30 p.m. today against the Blue Springs South Jaguars (4-2) at Rackers Fieldhouse.

“They’re pretty good with a lot of experience,” Light said. “They’re very athletic and they play well as a team.”

Offensively, the Lady Jaguars are averaging 56 points per game.

“They have some kids that can shoot it pretty well,” Light said. “And that can be tough to defend because they have the ability to move the ball so well. They are constantly looking for you to make a mistake on defense and when you do, they will take advantage of it.”

Remy Davenport, a senior, entered the season with 166 3-pointers in her career for Blue Springs South. She is averaging about 13 points per game this season. Cloe Lane, a junior forward, is totaling about 15 points a contest. Both were Suburban Big Six All-Conference selections last season.

On the defensive side, the Jaguars are allowing 41 points a contest.

“They guard really well,” Light said.

The Lady Jaguars are coached by Brad Oyler, who is in his second year at Blue Springs South after bringing some Liberty High School teams to the Invitational in the past.

“Brad’s had a lot of success everywhere he’s been,” Light said.

Blue Springs South has played one team in the Invitational this season, falling 74-61 to Hickman in the title game of the Blue Springs/Blue Springs South Tournament in mid-December.

Helias will have had a week off since its last game, a 59-35 victory at Rolla. Darcy Baird totaled 21 points and 15 rebounds in the win.

“She instinctively just moves to the ball, she never really gets caught standing around,” Light said. “She continues to improve her game.

“When she gets going, everything else gets going because it puts some much pressure on the other team.”

Baird, a junior, is averaging 13 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. Meghan Nappier is next at 7 points per game, followed by Mai Nienhueser (6.8), Kelsi Bernskoetter (6.2) and Luci Francka (5.2).

The Lady Crusaders rattled off 24 points in the first quarter of that game.

“It was the best start we’ve had in a game this season,” Light said.

Light, who will have a team in the Invitational for the 12th time, said he is happy the event will be played at Rackers Fieldhouse. The tournament resumes Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

“We’re going to be on our home floor for three games and that’s nice,” Light said.

That’s a change from in the past, when the boys and girls events merged at Fleming Fieldhouse on the final day.

The Lady Crusaders finished third in the Invitational last year. This is the first Invitational appearance for the Lady Jaguars since the last of their five straight in 1999.

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