Helias girls battle for victory against Lebanon

Lebanon kept knocking on the door. Helias just wouldn’t let it open.

Helias held off repeated Lebanon threats to pick up a 54-48 victory Tuesday night at Rackers Fieldhouse.

“They don’t let up on you,” Helias head coach Doug Light said. “They’re always coming at you. They put a lot of pressure on us. I think for the most part we made a lot of good decisions. That was a huge win for us. Last home game of the year, our seniors get to go out winners on their home floor. It was big.”

Meghan Nappier scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, while Mai Nienhueser chipped in with a double-double of her own (16 points, 12 rebounds) to lead Helias.

“She attacked them, which we felt watching film that we could do that,” Light said of Nappier. “She gets up in the open space, she’s pretty good at that. She knocked down some key free throws. That was big.”

Helias held just a 39-38 advantage with 6:36 to play. The Lady Crusaders held a 15-10 edge the rest of the way. Nappier scored six points in the final frame, including a 4-of-4 performance from the foul line.

Lebanon cut the deficit to 47-46 with 1:29 to play. Nappier canned a pair of free throws before diving for a loose rebound on Lebanon’s ensuing possession. Nienhueser scored on a putback and Nappier added another pair of foul shots to put the game out of reach.

“(We) made all the plays (down the stretch),” Light said. “We missed some shots but then we came back and found ways to make it happen. We defended a little better. … I think we found some ways to stop what they were doing and just had the answer at the end. You’ve got to be able to do that, you’ve got to be able to close a game out.”

Lebanon freshman Kelsey Winfrey scored a game-high 28 points on 9-of-20 shooting. She had 22 points after three but didn’t score in the fourth quarter until less than two minutes remained.

“We kept trying to make a focus of finding where she was, because if she gets lost in a zone you’re in trouble,” Light said. “She can do so many things, she’s so talented. Give our kids credit, they were finding her and stopping her from getting all those open looks. So that was huge for us.”

Helias opened up the game on a 9-0 run. Kelsi Bernskoetter hit a 3-pointer from the corner just 8 seconds into the contest, and Nappier and Nienhueser combined for the next six.

“We just came out with a lot of energy and confidence,” Light said. “That’s what I told them. I said, ‘A big start’s going to be huge against this team. I don’t want them to get that.’ We jumped out after them and took a little control early. We knew they’d come back at us. They’re a really good team.”

Lebanon cut the deficit to 15-9 after one quarter and 26-25 at halftime.

“They were getting to the rim,” Light said. “We told our kids that’s what they’re really good at, we’ve got to stop that. At halftime we told them two things. ‘We’ve got to make our shots underneath and we have to stop them from getting there.’ That’s what our whole focus was going to be. I think we limited them a little more. They didn’t seem to get in there as much as they did. Because they were just tearing us up.”

Lebanon took its first lead of the game when Winfrey hit a 3 to open the second half. After a Nienhueser jumper tied it, another 3 from Winfrey put the Lady Jackets up 31-28.

Nienhueser scored the next six points to put Helias up for good. Helias led 37-36 entering the fourth quarter and held on from there.

Mikalyn Callahan added 12 points for Lebanon (9-13).

Helias (14-10) closes out the regular season Thursday at Owensville.

“They’ve got a girl named Hailey Diestelkamp. She’s incredible, so it will be fun playing them,” Light said.

Helias won the JV game 45-18 to improve to 16-2 on the season.

Ashley Rehagen paced the Lady Crusaders with 13 points.

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