Crusaders will take win anyway they can get it

There’s a certain wonderful simplicity when it comes to this point in the basketball season.

“You’ll take a win (scoring) in the 20s,” said Helias coach Josh Buffington, whose team opens play in the Class 4 District 8 Tournament tonight. “You do what you have to do to help your team be successful in the win column, because you don’t want to have a loss at this time of year.”

The Crusaders are the No. 2 seed in the event and were originally slated to open play Tuesday in the semifinals after a first-round bye. But this week’s winter weather forced some adjustments to the schedule, and Helias finally gets to play at 9 p.m. today against Moberly. The Spartans (19-5) advanced with a 63-28 win Monday against sixth-seeded Fulton.

That will make it a full week between games for the Crusaders, who haven’t played since last Friday’s 71-51 loss to Rock Bridge at Rackers Fieldhouse.

Buffington said facing a tough team like the Class 5 Bruins was a good way to end the regular season.

“It was a good game for us in order to help us get focused,” he said. “Not to say our guys haven’t been focused all season, but when you go into districts, it’s a different beast. You’re in a one-and-done situation every night you take the floor and everything is escalated by 10 notches.

“We can take a lot from that game, the good and the bad.”

Helias already owns a win over Moberly this season, as the Crusaders beat the Spartans 40-35 on Dec. 21 at Moberly. That win came when the Spartans were 7-0 and appearing in the state rankings.

Moberly’s other losses this season have come to Springfield Parkview (38-30), Branson (53-21) and two to Mexico (56-47 and 52-47).

The Spartans have three players averaging in double figures. Sophomores Tanner Wetrich and J’Von Spiller lead the way at 11.1 and 10.7 points per game, respectively, while senior Rashaun Smith drops in 10.4 per contest. Senior Andrew Garrison leads the squad with 5.5 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game.

With a win over Moberly, Helias would likely get top-ranked Mexico in Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. championship game. The Crusaders and Bulldogs have also played this year, with Mexico claiming a 60-48 win Feb. 5 at Rackers Fieldhouse.

“All the teams you’ll play from this point on, in fact, most of the one you’ve played in the second half of the season, have you scouted to a T,” Buffington said. “We hope to have them scouted to a T as well. It’s all about executing what you do well, on both ends of the floor.”

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