Helias rides hot shooting to victory against Versailles

Chase Bexten (23) and Trevor Koelling (44) battle Versailles’ Kyler Turpin (25) for the rebound Tuesday night at Rackers Fieldhouse.

Chase Bexten (23) and Trevor Koelling (44) battle Versailles’ Kyler Turpin (25) for the rebound Tuesday night at Rackers Fieldhouse. Photo by Kris Wilson.

The Helias Crusaders were just taking what the defense was giving them.

And the Crusaders were making most of their open looks against Versailles’ zone.

Helias jumped out to an early lead after knocking down eight 3-pointers in the first quarter and went on to claim a 66-30 win against Versailles on Tuesday night at Rackers Field House.

“They’re a 1-2-2 zone team and we just had to take what they gave us,” Helias coach Josh Buffington said. “They gave us a lot of looks from the perimeter and they were just going to settle with us taking those shots. Fortunately, we were able to knock some down early and build some confidence.”

The Crusaders (10-2) led 24-0 lead after the first quarter and they didn’t look back from there.

“We wanted to come out here and put them away early,” said Helias junior Isiah Sykes, who scored a game-high 22 points. “That’s what we did.”

Sykes knocked down four treys in the opening period to help get Helias started. But he wasn’t the only one with the hot hand from behind the arc.

Collin Caywood hit a pair of threes, while Sam Husting and Alex Barton each added one in the first eight minutes to help the Crusaders pull away early.

“It’s still all about the post,” Sykes said. “They take up a lot of space and occupy a lot of the defenders for us. That gives us open shots and its our job to go out there and knock them down.”

Helias didn’t have a problem doing that. The Crusaders were 18-of-34 (53 percent) from the field and 14-of-25 (56 percent) from 3-point range.

“Obviously we shot the ball well, but I thought our shot selection was tremendous,” Buffington said. “We were making the extra pass against the zone and we were giving ourselves second chances when we did miss.”

Versailles (7-3) didn’t get on the scoreboard until Trey Woods knocked down a pair of free throws with 6:57 left in the second quarter.

By that time, the Tigers trailed 24-2.

“We didn’t shoot the ball very well,” said Versailles coach Kent Thomas, who coached Buffington at Hannibal-LaGrange University for four years. “Some of that had to do with Helias’ defense and the way they play their physical style of defense, but we didn’t shoot it very well either.”

Versailles didn’t hit a field goal until Michael Allen capitalized on a putback attempt with 4:18 before halftime. The Tigers, who trailed 40-11 going into the break, were just 4-of-23 from the field in the first half.

“It really stepped up our defensive intensity by knocking some shots down early,” Buffington said. “We’ve really defended well in our last three or four games. We’ve said it time and time again, that’s the staple of our program — half-court defense, and I think we’re continually getting better at it as a team. Our help-side was good tonight, our ball pressure was good, and we were very solid on close-outs.”

Sykes and Chase Bexten both hit a pair of 3s in the third quarter, but the Crusaders were also able to utilize their inside game down the stretch.

After just getting one shot attempt in the first half, Helias junior Hale Hentges went 4-for-4 from the field in the third quarter as the Crusaders took a 62-19 lead into the final stanza.

“That shows you the difference in game plans,” Buffington said. “They were taking that away from us in the first half. It was hard to get him touches, and when we did, he was getting double and (triple-teamed) and we had to kick out of it. The second half, they were more focused on our guards, trying to limit them off the dribble and getting up and contesting jump shots.”

Caywood added 10 points and Gerstner added seven points in his third game back since sustaining an injury early in the football season to help lead Helias, which claimed a 31-15 rebounding advantage.

Woods scored 10 points — six in the fourth quarter — to lead Versailles, which was 9-of-42 (21.4 percent) from the field.

The Crusaders have now won six games in a row entering Tuesday’s matchup at Jefferson City. Helias claimed a 70-68 win in double overtime against the Jays on Dec. 28 in the Joe Machens Great 8 shootout.

“It’s always close with the Jays,” Buffington said. “The good thing about this year’s game with them is we have a solid week to recover and maybe tweak some things from the first time we played them. We know we can have fresh legs going into it. We’re really focused right now in preparing for them. It will be tough to get them again in their own gym — two times in less than three weeks.”

The Helias junior varsity team claimed a 62-46 win against Versailles in the opener on Tuesday night.

Trevor Koelling scored 16 points, while Weston Porter added 12 and Chase Bexton chipped in 11 to lead Helias.

Duane Danner scored a game-high 17 points to lead Versailles.

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