Strong performance on FTs propels Helias girls to title

KIRKSVILLE, Mo. — The free-throw line has not been a friend of the Helias Lady Crusaders this season.

But the pair patched things up in the second half Friday night.

“We’ve had our free-throw woes this season, but we were great at the line in the final two quarters,” Helias coach Doug Light said after the top-seeded Lady Crusaders claimed the Class 4 District 8 title with a 41-31 victory against the Kirksville Lady Tigers.

The Lady Crusaders missed 17 free throws in a semifinal win Thursday night, then were just 4-of-11 from the stripe in the first half Friday. But Helias hit 13-of-15 in the second half on its way to the 10-point win.

“That really changed the game for us,” Light said.

Kirksville (12-14) led 9-8 after one quarter. It was tied at 14 at halftime before Helias pulled away to a 27-19 advantage after three periods.

A great defensive effort by a pair of Helias guards also played a big role in the victory.

“Between Meghan Nappier and Bayley Francka taking turns guarding their best player, they erased her,” Light said.

Mai Nienhueser paced Helias with 12 points. Katlyn Cowell added 10, while Luci Francka had seven points and Kelsi Bernskoetter totaled six on a pair of early 3-pointers.

With the win, Helias (16-11) advances to Wednesday night’s sectional game against the St. Charles West Lady Warriors (21-5) at Troy. Game time is 6 p.m.

It is Helias’ third district title in the last four seasons.

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