Helias tops Jefferson City in double overtime

At the Joe Machens Great 8 Classic


Helias’ Sam Husting tries to drive past Jefferson City’s Seth Stegeman during Saturday’s action in the Joe Machens Great 8 Classic at Fleming Fieldhouse.

Helias’ Sam Husting tries to drive past Jefferson City’s Seth Stegeman during Saturday’s action in the Joe Machens Great 8 Classic at Fleming Fieldhouse. Photo by Kris Wilson.

It was like finding one more unopened present hidden underneath the piles of ripped Christmas wrapping paper.

The Helias Crusaders and Jefferson City Jays gave basketball fans a late holiday gift Saturday afternoon, as the teams produced another one of those gems you expect from this great rivalry.

Never mind it was in the loser’s bracket of the Joe Machens Great 8 Classic. This one had all the intensity of a postseason game, and when it was all over, Helias emerged with a 70-68 win in a double-overtime thriller.

The game featured seven ties — including after the first quarter, the fourth quarter and the first overtime — a whopping 13 lead changes. It was a roller-coaster ride in the best kind of way.

“I knew both teams would come out and play hard, regardless of what side of the bracket or what time of day it was,” Jefferson City coach Blair Thompson said. “That was easy to predict. Both teams came out and battled extremely hard from start to finish.”

The back-and-forth affair was evident in the second overtime, where Helias held a slim 6-4 scoring edge to decide it.

The Jays struck first when Lucas Theroff made 1-of-2 free throws, only to see Helias take the lead back on a layup by Adam Bax.

Jefferson City’s O.G. Anunoby answered right back when he splashed home a 3-pointer — part of a 30-point night for the junior — to put the Jays up 68-66. Helias’ Isiah Sykes then got fouled on a 3-point attempt of his own, and he drilled all three free throws.

After a missed jumper by the Jays, Sykes made 1-of-2 free throws for the final margin. Between the two overtimes, the junior made 10-of-11 free throws on his way to a team-high 26 points.

“It’s no secret who we’re getting the ball to down the stretch when we need to get to the line,” Helias coach Josh Buffington said. “I thought Isiah played a tremendous basketball game.”

The Jays had two shots on their final possession — a 3 to take the lead and a 2-point attempt at the buzzer — but neither connected.

“It just came down to a few small plays here and there and Helias has proven that they can do that more consistently that we have over the past couple years,” Thompson said.

The game’s first tie came at 13 at the end of the first quarter, which only served as a warmup for a wildly entertaining second quarter where the teams combined for 44 points. The Crusaders outscored the Jays 23-21 to take a 36-34 lead into the locker room.

The Crusaders shot a torrid 54 percent (14-of-26) from the floor in the half, while the Jays were a bit back at just 44 percent (13-of-29). However, Jefferson City was red-hot from 3-point range, making 6-of-8.

The Crusaders took their biggest lead of the night with 2:59 left in the third quarter when a layup by Hale Hentges made it 47-39.

However, foul troubles were mounting for Helias, and Jefferson City started to cut into the lead at the foul line.

“We got in the bonus early in the second half and I thought that played to our advantage in closing the gap,” Thompson said.

Jefferson City got the deficit down to 50-46 after three quarters and when Anunoby made a layup with 3:23 left in the fourth, the Jays were up 58-57 and had their first lead since 29-28.

Buffington said his team was just trying to hold on for dear life during the late stages of the third quarter and early in the fourth.

“We had our top guys in foul trouble and sometimes you just have to go with them. If they foul out, they foul out,” he said. “We tried to make as many offensive/defensive substitutions as we could, even midway through the third quarter, which is earlier than you usually do that stuff. But it was just that important of a game.”

Anunoby added a layup that made it 60-57 before Sam Husting knocked down a 3 with 1:06 remaining for the final points in regulation. Both teams had chances down the stretch, but it went to overtime tied at 60.

Each team scored four points in the first overtime, Helias on four free throws by Sykes and Jefferson City on a layup by Darion Jones and two free throws by Anunoby.

The Crusaders then won it in the second extra period.

“It was a team win, because we all made mistakes,” Buffington said. “But we were able to come together and pick each other up, and that’s what you need to do in a Jays-Saders game.”

Three other Crusaders joined Sykes in double figures. Hentges added 13, Husting had 12 and Collin Caywood chipped in with 11.

“It’s always good to see that balance, and that’s what we’re striving for offensively,” Buffington said.

Jake White had 16 points for Jefferson City, while Jones added 10.

The teams won’t have much time to recover from the contest, as they’re back in action early today. Jefferson City (4-5) will play Battle (2-8) at 1:30 p.m. in the seventh-place game, and Thompson said he’s not worried about the players having fresh legs.

“These guys are 15, 16, 17. They’ll be fine,” he said. “It’s what they do. They’re all in good shape, so they’ll be ready. We’ll regroup in the morning and try to salvage what we can of this tournament.”

Meanwhile, Helias (5-2) will take on Raytown South (5-3) at 3 p.m. for fifth place.

“In the locker room (after Saturday’s win), we didn’t talk a whole lot about the game,” Buffington said. “We did a little bit, because you want to praise your guys for winning a very emotional one.

“But the main thing we talked about was, ‘Can we refocus for tomorrow and not come out flat, not come out on our heels?’”

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