Second-quarter surge sends Helias past Jefferson City

Helias guard Meghan Nappier looks for a shot as Jefferson City teammates Megan Foster (32) and Kezia Martin (right) try to defend Monday night at Fleming Fieldhouse.

Helias guard Meghan Nappier looks for a shot as Jefferson City teammates Megan Foster (32) and Kezia Martin (right) try to defend Monday night at Fleming Fieldhouse. Photo by Kris Wilson.

On a cold night, the Jefferson City Lady Jays picked a bad time to go cold. The Helias Lady Crusaders were there to take advantage.

Helias outscored Jefferson City 12-1 in the second quarter Monday night on its way to a 44-29 victory at Fleming Fieldhouse.

“That obviously was a big quarter for us,” Helias coach Doug Light said. “We did a very good job both offensively and defensively.”

On the other side, Jefferson City coach Dan Ridgeway thought his team lost some of its assertiveness in those pivotal eight minutes.

“Their size inside gave us a problem early and I think made us a little timid,” he said. “We were settling for jump shots and we weren’t hitting them and that was a problem.”

Helias got baskets from Meghan Nappier and Luci Francka in the final :40 of the first quarter to take a 9-5 lead. Nappier’s bucket keyed a big first quarter for the senior, who had six points while shadowing Jefferson City’s leading scorer Megan Foster all over the defensive end.

But Nappier was whistled for her second foul in the opening minute of the second quarter and went to the bench. In came Baylee Francka, who kept up the pressure on Foster and hit a 3-pointer on the offensive end for the Lady Crusaders.

“Baylee did a great job,” Light said.

On the other side, the Lady Jays finished the second quarter 0-of-8 from the field, including 0-of-5 on 3-pointers, as the Lady Crusaders took a 21-6 lead into intermission.

Ahead by 15, Light warned his team not to let up in the final two quarters.

“We told them they were going to make a run at us, they weren’t done,” he said. “I’ve seen leads just disappear and you never get them back.

“We gathered ourselves up, we’re still learning how to do that, and we did a good job of it.”

Helias led by as many as 18 points in the third quarter, that coming at 26-8 after a free throw by Darcy Baird with 5:07 remaining. But the Lady Jays then found their stride, closing the quarter with an 11-2 run to make it 28-19 heading into the final period. It was the first time since the mid-second quarter Helias’ lead was less than double digits.

Foster hit a 3-pointer in the run, capped by a pair of Nicole Martin buckets.

“I didn’t make an adjustment quickly enough on how they were defending against Megan,” Ridgeway said. “I didn’t do a very good job.”

But the momentum shifted back to Helias at the start of the fourth quarter. The Lady Crusaders used an 11-2 run of their own to push the lead back to 18 at 39-21 with 2:30 remaining in the game.

“Sometimes when a team puts on a run on you like they did, your kids can lose their focus,” Light said. “But we got it right back and that’s part of the maturation process for this team. Earlier in the year, we might not have been able to do that.”

Helias led by as many as 19 points in the final minute.

“We played with great energy and focus in the second half, the problem was we were down 15 at halftime,” Ridgeway said. “We did some good things, we were just too far behind.

“The girls busted it, they just got the better of us tonight.”

Nappier finished with a game-high 15 points for Helias. Mai Nienhueser had a double-double for the Lady Crusaders, totaling 12 points and 11 rebounds.

The Lady Crusaders finished with a 37-20 edge in rebounds.

Helias (11-4) is back in action at home Wednesday against St. Joseph’s Academy. The JV game will start at 5 p.m., with the varsity to follow at 6:30 p.m.

Martin came off the bench to lead Jefferson City with 10 points and five rebounds.

“She’s still learning, she’s an athletic player with good skills,” Ridgeway said of the sophomore. “We know she has a heck of a future.”

Jefferson City (8-10) will play Friday at Webster Groves.

In Monday’s junior varsity game, Jefferson City hit its free throws in the final two minutes to take a 39-30 victory against Helias.

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