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Lady Crusaders fall to Mexico

MEXICO, Mo. — It had been more than two weeks since the Helias Lady Crusaders had played a game.

It showed in their Class 4 District 8 semifinal game against Mexico on Friday night. Helias’ rally in the final seconds came up just short, ending its season in the process as Mexico held on in the final 30 seconds and picked up a 40-37 victory.

“I’d say it would,” Helias coach Doug Light said about the layoff being a factor.

Because of snow, Helias had its regular season finale against Owensville called off last Thursday and again Friday. This week’s district tournament games were pushed back from Tuesday because of the weather.

Mexico, which played a first-round game Thursday against Marshall, led 38-33 with less than 30 seconds remaining when a Kelsi Bernskoetter layup cut the lead to 38-35. After stealing the inbounds pass, Helias missed two 3-pointers before a Mia Nienhauser layup made the score 38-37 with 10.5 seconds left.

But on the ensuing possession third-seeded Mexico was able to get all the way down the floor before second-seeded Helias could foul. Kelli Ingrum made two free throws with 2.2 seconds left to put Mexico up 40-37. A last-ditch 3-pointer fell short as Mexico advanced to take on Kirksville at 6 p.m. today for the championship.

Mexico, which lost to Helias 56-45 Jan. 9, led 15-10 after the first quarter and 21-18 at halftime. The Lady Bulldogs led 24-23 after three quarters but Helias took a 26-24 lead early in the fourth quarter on a 3-pointer by Taylor Hagenhoff. Hagenhoff hit another 3 to give Helias a 30-29 lead, but Mexico responded with a 7-0 run to take a 36-30 lead with less than a minute left. That run turned out to be too much for Helias to overcome.

“It was just missed shots we usually hit,” Light said. “We’d just flat miss it. I just don’t have a reason for that. We were just rusty.

“They played (Thursday). ... They got it out of their system.”

Mexico went 6-of-6 from the line in the fourth quarter and 8-of-10 overall. Helias hit just 1-of-4 free throws for the game.

Hagenhoff led Helias with 17 points including five 3-pointers. Bernskoetter finished with 13 points including three 3-pointers. Helias hit eight 3-pointers for the game.

Brooke Costley finished with 16 points to lead Mexico (16-10).

Helias, which had won back-to-back district titles, ends its season at 17-8.

“There’s nothing you can say to your kids when you lose a game like that,” Light said. “There’s nothing you can do to comfort them. ... I’ve been through this before. It’s tough for a bunch of kids, especially your five seniors.”

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