Big second half hands Helias win vs. Raytown South

Helias’ Trevor Koelling hits the deck while battling Raytown South’s Elijah Childs (24) for a loose ball during Sunday’s action in the Joe Machens Great 8 Classic at Fleming Fieldhouse.

Helias’ Trevor Koelling hits the deck while battling Raytown South’s Elijah Childs (24) for a loose ball during Sunday’s action in the Joe Machens Great 8 Classic at Fleming Fieldhouse. Photo by Kris Wilson.

For one half, the Helias Crusaders were well on their way to making history — and the bad kind, at that.

But a spectacular second half made everything better.

The Crusaders went from possibly making history for the lowest offensive output in the history of the Joe Machens Great 8 Classic to actually winning, beating Raytown South 49-29 in Sunday’s fifth-place game.

When the first half ended, the Crusaders found themselves on the short end of a 15-11 score. That meant the tournament low-water mark of 20 points, set by Battle earlier in the day in the seventh-place game, was within range.

But the Crusaders came out of the locker room hot and followed up quarters of five and six points with a 17-point third quarter and a 21-point fourth period.

“We actually played well in the first half, we just didn’t hit shots,” Helias coach Josh Buffington said.

They didn’t hit those shots to a tune of 4-of-23 (17 percent) in the first two quarters.

“Not to make any excuses, but we knew we had to just get through the first quarter, coming off that emotional win (Saturday) night (against Jefferson City in double overtime),” Buffington said.

Luckily for the Crusaders, Raytown South was having about as much trouble getting the ball to fall. The Cardinals made just 7-of-26 (27 percent) while leading 9-5 after one quarter and 15-11 at intermission.

Raytown South made just 13-of-51 for the game (25 percent) and became just the 10th team to score in the 20s in a game during the tournament, which began in 1991.

“Defensively, I thought we were sound the whole game,” Buffington said. “The only thing we didn’t do well in the first half was rebound the basketball, and we were better in the second half.”

They were better at that thanks in large part to Adam Bax, who tied for the game high with 10 rebounds.

“At one time, I think he had defensive rebounds on five straight possessions,” Buffington said. “He’s an X-factor type of player. He’s a talented kid and the sky’s the limit for him. He will continue to get better.”

As bad as the first half was, it was the polar opposite early in the third quarter. Helias hit its first three shots from the field – layups by Isiah Sykes and Sam Husting and a 3-pointer by Husting – plus all five of its free throws to score the first 12 points of the second half.

“We were able to use their pressure as an advantage for us,” Buffington said. “We were able to get behind them and got some easy back-door looks and some easy rolldown post-ups. We played to the game plan a lot better in that second half offensively.”

The biggest lead of the third quarter came at 28-19 when Michael Tannehill hit a jumper with 1:15 remaining, and that stayed the score going into the fourth.

The final score was Helias’ biggest advantage of the night, and that came on a layup by Casey McCollum with 1:09 left.

The Crusaders did most of the damage in the fourth from the free-throw line, connecting on 13-of-16 attempts. For the game, they made 21-of-27 free throws, compared to just 2-of-3 for Raytown South.

Sykes was the only player to reach double figures in the game, as he scored 12. But Helias did have nine different players score, and Collin Caywood was close to double digits with nine points.

“We’re doing a good job of spreading it around right now,” Buffington said. “Our balance is getting better each and every game. It makes you more potent as a team when you’ve got guys who can come in and produce, and we’re confident they all can.”

The Crusaders improved to 6-2 with the win, and more importantly, they won their last two after dropping their opener in the tournament.

“I think it says a lot about the character of our kids,” Buffington said. “They wanted to go 2-1 in this thing, especially after we didn’t think we played a very good game in Round 1. If you can come into the Machens and get two wins, regardless of what side of the bracket you’re on, that’s a positive due to the talent in this tournament.”

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