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Defense carries Helias boys past Moberly

Helias guard Sam Husting and Moberly forward Will Rucker battle for possession of the ball during Friday’s game at Rackers Fieldhouse. Helias defeated Moberly 57-37 to improve to 9-2 on the season.

Helias guard Sam Husting and Moberly forward Will Rucker battle for possession of the ball during Friday’s game at Rackers Fieldhouse. Helias defeated Moberly 57-37 to improve to 9-2 on the season. Photo by Kris Wilson.

With its offense struggling Friday night, the Helias boys basketball team turned around its fortunes by focusing on the other end of the floor.

Using some smothering defense, the Crusaders kept themselves close until they started hitting shots, and they eventually rolled to a 57-37 win against the Moberly Spartans.

How smothering was the defense? Well, it’s not often you see a team go on a 39-8 run, but that’s exactly what the Crusaders did.

Helias trailed 11-7 with :41 left in the opening quarter. By the time there was :46 remaining in the third period, the Crusaders were ahead 46-19.

Talk about turning the game on its ear.

“The thing we were most proud of our guys for in the first half was they kept defending through all our offensive struggles in the first half,” Helias coach Josh Buffington said.

During the first quarter, which ended with Moberly leading 11-9, the Spartans did a great job of clamping down on Isiah Sykes and Hale Hentges, the Crusaders’ leading scorer and third-leading scorer, respectively.

Needing someone to step up, the Crusaders got that midway through the second quarter with the game tied at 11. First it was Collin Caywood, getting a three-point play off a nifty backdoor cut, and after a Moberly turnover, it was Alex Barton drilling a 3-pointer.

“From that point on, our guys just relaxed a little bit,” Buffington said. “Some of that weight was off their shoulders.”

The Spartans scored their only two points of the second quarter on a jumper right after that, but Sykes made 1-of-2 free throws soon after and Sam Husting drilled a 3 with :32 left in the half to send the Crusaders into halftime up 23-13. There’s only one way the period, where Helias had a 14-2 scoring edge, could have been any better.

“Our goal every season is to hold somebody scoreless in a quarter, just because half-court defense is such a staple of our program,” Buffington said. “I thought our guys did a great job defending.”

The Spartans were just 1-of-11 from the field in the quarter, and most of them were good looks.

“If you look individually at our shots, they were OK,” Moberly coach Mark Anderson said. “But we settled for a lot of jumpshots, and unfortunately, that’s who we are. We don’t have a post presence just yet.”

The struggles continued for Moberly in the third quarter, where Helias had a 23-8 scoring edge to go ahead 46-21. The Spartans made just 2-of-11 shots in the frame.

“(The Crusaders) guard the basketball well and they have the ability to go on those type of runs, and we probably don’t,” Anderson said. “We just have to be able to take a few things away in that stretch and limit the damage when we’re not shooting well.”

A small spurt by the Spartans to start the fourth quarter got the lead down to 17, but the Crusaders recovered to win by 20.

Sykes was the only Crusader to reach double figures in scoring, as he pumped in a game-high 25 points. Hentges had game highs with 11 rebounds and four blocks, while Adam Bax chipped in with 10 rebounds.

“If you throw Hickman out, Helias is certainly the best team we’ve played so far,” Anderson said. “… Josh has a great basketball team and it’s always fun to play them, I just wish we’d have a little bit better luck against them.”

Tanner Wetrich was the only play for Moberly (6-3) to reach double digits, as he scored 11 points.

Helias (9-2), which is ranked seventh in the state in Class 4, returns to action Tuesday at home against Versailles.

In the JV game, Helias pulled out a 56-54 victory.

Weston Porter led the Crusaders (4-2) with 16 points, while Chase Bexten had 13 and Kale Gerstner chipped in with 10.

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