Helias wastes big game from Nienhueser in loss to Boonville

Mai Nienhueser couldn’t be stopped.

The Helias sophomore poured in a game-high 28 points on 10-of-16 from the field and 8-of-10 from the foul line. She scored 19 of Helias’ 22 second-half points and pulled down nine rebounds.

It just wasn’t enough. Helias couldn’t take advantage of Nienhueser’s huge performance, falling 52-49 to Boonville on Thursday night at Rackers Fieldhouse.

“She’s just really active right now,” Helias head coach Doug Light said of Nienhueser. “She has a nice shooting touch, she can score inside, she’s got that little 12-foot, 15-foot jump shot she can hit at times. She attacked off the baseline. She’s a pretty decent passer most of the time. … She made great decisions against their press.”

Helias missed on a trio of chances to tie the game in the final minute.

After Boonville missed the front end of a one-and-one with 40 seconds left, Helias threw the ball away against the Lady Pirates’ press. Boonville politely turned the ball back over to Helias before the Lady Crusaders’ deep 3-point attempt rimmed out with less than 10 seconds to go. Boonville again missed the front end of a one-and-one with 4.2 seconds left, but the Lady Crusaders weren’t able to get a shot off before the final buzzer sounded.

“We knew it’d be a battle,” Light said. “Our kids battled, we just didn’t cash in on a couple opportunities. That was the difference.”

Helias held a 15-11 advantage after one quarter, a frame where Lady Crusader forward Darcy Baird pulled down seven of her game-high 14 rebounds. Helias finished the game with a 47-23 rebounding advantage.

“I thought we rebounded really well,” Light said. “That was one thing that was a good thing for us.”

Boonville responded to tie the game at 27 at halftime. Helias committed eight turnovers in the frame, and had 12 for the half.

“They’re a team that scores a lot of layups, scores a lot of points,” Light said. “We tried to limit that. I think in the first half they scored a lot off turnovers. We told the kids, ‘You’ve got to take care of that.’ I thought in the second half we did a better job of that, we limited them there.”

After scoring nine points in the first half, Nienhueser exploded for 19 in the second half. She scored 10 of Helias’ first 13 points in the third quarter to give the Lady Crusaders their largest lead at 40-33 with 2:13 left in the third.

“She’s been playing really well for us lately and getting her confidence,” Light said. “She’s only a sophomore. People forget, we’re kind of an inexperienced team, we’re a young team, we’re just putting it together. She’s a really good player.”

Boonville cut the deficit to 42-40 heading into the final period.

The Lady Pirates used a 12-7 edge in the fourth to pick up the win. Nienhueser accounted for all of Helias’ points in the frame.

Boonville’s Morgan Edwards, who came in averaging 14.9 points per game and was held to just two first-half points, picked up a couple early baskets in the fourth to give the Lady Pirates a 46-44 edge.

“We went to a zone to protect our lead and then we kind of lost track of Morgan Edwards,” Light said. “She scored some quick baskets on us, and that hurt us right there.”

Edwards finished with 12 points.

“Darcy was guarding her, and Darcy did a really good job defending her. … (Edwards is) a big scorer. She’s scored 1,000 points in her career. She’s got a lot of talent, that’s for sure. We limited her.”

Nienhueser scored the next three points to give Helias a 47-46 lead with 4:14 left. She then went to the bench with four fouls, returning with 2:19 left and Helias down 48-47.

Paige Renfrow drove for a basket and later hit a pair of free throws to put Boonville up 52-47 with 1:06 remaining. Nienhueser’s jumper made it 52-49 with 44 seconds left, and that’s how it ended.

“Boonville’s a really quality team, that’s why they have 22 wins,” Light said.

Boonville finishes the regular season at 22-3.

Helias (14-9) hosts Lebanon on Tuesday.

Helias won the JV game 51-44 to improve to 15-2 on the year.

Julie Harris and Ashley Rehagen paced the Lady Crusaders with 14 points apiece. Olivia Johanns added 13.

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