Helias tops Moberly to advance to title game

MEXICO — The Helias Crusaders raced out to a huge lead, held off a comeback attempt and finally emerged with a 64-47 win over Moberly in the semifinals of the Class 4 District 8 Tournament on Friday night.

The Crusaders jumped out to an 8-0 lead to start the game, with Dylan Gish scoring all of the points. The lead eventually hit 15-2 in the opening quarter when Adam Bax drilled a 3-pointer, and the advantage was 15-4 heading into the second period.

“One of our main keys was getting off to a hot start, and our guys did a great job on both ends to make that happen,” Helias coach Josh Buffington said.

The Crusaders kept coming and took their biggest lead of the game at 39-18 when Isiah Sykes hit 1-of-2 free throws.

Sykes scored 12 of his 14 first-half points in the quarter and Helias took a 39-21 lead into the locker room.

The second-seeded Crusaders built the lead back up to 20 points twice in the early going of the third, but that’s when the third-seeded Spartans decided to make things interesting.

Moberly put together a 10-2 run to cut the lead down to 46-34, and Helias’ advantage was just 52-38 heading to the final period.

The Spartans scored the first six points of the fourth quarter to cut the Crusaders’ lead to 52-44.

“We’ve been through a lot this season and have been through something like that before,” Buffington said. “When you play good teams, and well-coached teams, they’ll go on runs. We had gotten away from our offensive game plan, which led to some defensive breakdowns, but we settled down and had better shot selection after that.”

That was as close as Moberly would get, as Helias closed the game on a 12-3 run.

Sykes led the Crusaders (14-12) with 23 points, while Hale Hentges added 18 and Gish ended up with 13.

J’Von Spiller led Moberly (19-6) with 15 points, Rashaun Smith had 14 and Tanner Garrison chipped in with 10.

The Crusaders will play top-seeded Mexico, a 66-26 winner over fourth-seeded Kirksville on Friday, at 7:30 p.m. today for the championship.

“Mexico is a team that likes to execute its sets and we’ll have to make them uncomfortable,” Buffington said. “No matter what defense we play, we have to make them not play to their strengths. The bottom line in any championship game is the team that defends well, wins.”

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