Helias stumbles against Louisville Western

This was not the kind of start you want.

The Helias Crusaders had a rugged first three minutes of their opening game in the Joe Machens Great 8 Classic, falling behind 9-1 to Louisville (Ky.) Western.

While it doesn’t sound like much, the Crusaders never recovered from it.

The lead hovered around that size for much of the first half, and then the Warriors eventually pulled away for a 51-39 victory.

“Our guys just took a night off tonight, and I’m really confused as to why,” Helias coach Josh Buffington said. “Hopefully we can refocus and have a better showing (today).”

The Crusaders trailed 15-7 after one quarter, and while they did get the lead down to 15-12 after a jumper by Collin Caywood and a three-point play by Hale Hentges early in the second quarter, it was back up to 23-15 by halftime.

Buffington said the Crusaders tried to do too much while attempting to come back from the early hole they found themselves in.

“Our guys have to be tough enough mentally to battle back through that — it’s not the first time we’ve been down on the scoreboard before,” he said. “If you dig yourself a hole, you’ve got to chip away at it. I don’t think we did a very good job of that. I thought we were trying to get too many things back in one possession.”

The other problem was the fact Helias hit just 4-of-18 shots (22 percent) in the opening half.

“Our shot selection wasn’t good tonight, and we were too slow moving the ball,” Buffington said. “Against a team like (Louisville Western), if you’re slow moving the ball and the ball isn’t seeing both sides and you’re not playing off your posts, a missed shot after those things is going to turn into a layup for them, and I think we saw that about 15 times tonight.”

The Warriors led by as many as 14 in the third quarter before taking a 37-25 edge into the final period.

Louisville Western’s biggest lead of the night was 50-33 with 3:20 remaining.

Helping the Warriors build the lead was their rebounding edge. They had a 36-25 lead in the game, and 12 of those came on the offensive end.

“When they would miss one, they would rebound three or four times,” Buffington said. “They would rebound until they eventually scored. Our effort wasn’t nearly at the level it needed to be to compete with that team.”

In an interesting statistic, the Crusaders ended the game with 20 attempts from 2-point range, 20 from 3-point range and 20 from the free-throw line. But while they made 14 free throws, they made just 5-of-20 on 2s and 3s.

“You have to knock down shots to win in this game,” Buffington said. “But we’ve also got to make sure we’re getting the right ones and have a flow on offense. We just didn’t seem to have much of a flow on offense and that just seemed to dictate the ensuing possessions on defense.”

Helias (4-2) was paced by Isiah Sykes’ 16 points, with 10 of them coming on free throws.

Kittrell Withers had 16 points to lead Louisville Western (5-3) and Chris McCraw added 10.

Helias will play a loser’s bracket game at 4 p.m. today against Jefferson City, while Louisville Western will play Oxford (Miss.) in a winner’s bracket game at 7 p.m.

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