Defense leads Helias girls past St. Charles West

TROY, Mo. — The Helias girls basketball team knew it would be tough to shut down NCAA Division I prospect Kacy Eschweiler.

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Josh Hall reports

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The Lady Crusaders didn’t keep the 6-foot-2 junior off the scoreboard, but they did use a team effort to slow her down.

Helias limited Eschweiler to 11 points — 12 below her season average — as the Lady Crusaders went on to claim a 46-34 win against St. Charles West in a Class 4 sectional game Wednesday night at Troy Buchanan High School.

“I think we defended really well,” Helias coach Doug Light said. “Eschweiler is such a tough player and I think we contained her pretty well. We tried to focus on her and still not let their 3-point shooters and their slashers get to the rim on us and hit shots.

“It took a lot of effort from a lot of kids to get in there and do all that.”

Eschweiler was the only player to score in double figures for the Lady Warriors, who had an eight-game winning streak come to a close.

St. Charles West (22-6) was just 13-of-46 from the field, including 4-of-18 from beyond the arc, and 4-of-10 from the free-throw line.

“I thought we did a great job of shutting down their big scorers, fighting for loose balls and getting on the floor,” Helias junior Molly Sandbothe said. “I thought we hustled really well.”

Sandbothe came off the bench to score 10 points, six coming as part of a 10-0 run that gave Helias (17-11) a 14-point lead midway through the fourth quarter.

Mai Nienhueser scored a game-high 15 points and pulled down 10 rebounds, while Kelsi Bernskoetter chipped in with nine points to lead the Lady Crusaders, who were 16-of-41 from the field and 10-of-21 from the charity stripe.

Darcy Baird was held scoreless, but played a key role in limiting the touches Eschweiler, who was averaging 23.7 points entering Tuesday’s contest, was able to get on the offensive end.

“We had to be a team and come together,” Nienhueser said. “Like coach Light says, ‘It takes five to make a fist.’”

More than five players made a difference in this one.

After a slow first quarter for both teams, Katlyn Cowell came off the bench and knocked down a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give Helias an 11-8 lead entering the second period.

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Nienhueser opened the second quarter with back-to-back buckets, while Bernskoetter and Molly Light followed by hitting consecutive 3s to cap a 17-3 run that gave the Lady Crusaders a 25-11 lead with 2:50 left in the period.

St. Charles West responded with a 6-0 run, but Helias still led 25-17 at halftime.

The Lady Warriors pulled within 30-26 with three minutes left in the third quarter, but Helias killed the momentum in a hurry.

Luci Francka and Sandbothe, both reserves for Helias, combined to score the next 10 points to give the Lady Crusaders a 40-26 advantage with 4:35 to play in the fourth quarter.

They didn’t look back from there.

“We just try to focus a lot and just try to make sure we run our offense right,” Sandbothe said. “When we do that, we get good looks.”

Helias entered the fourth quarter with a 34-26 lead and the Lady Crusaders maintained at least an eight-point cushion in the final eight minutes to put the Lady Warriors away.

St. Charles West, which was out-rebounded 41-30, was just 3-of-19 from the field in the final period.

“They had a lot of one-and-dones and that’s huge in the game of basketball,” Light said. “It’s not the first shot that beats you, it’s those second and third opportunities that will cause you problems.”

Now, the Lady Crusaders hope their momentum continues.

Helias will play nationally ranked Incarnate Word Academy (28-1) in a Class 4 quarterfinal game at 1 p.m. Saturday at Frances Howell High School.

“We’re definitely in high spirits,” Sandbothe said. “I think we’re playing at our best right now.”

See also:

Late shot by Bax lifts Crusaders past St. Charles

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