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Helias takes third in Class 4 with OT win against Farmington

Isiah Sykes of Helias drives toward the basket during Saturday afternoon’s Class 4 third-place game against Farmington at Mizzou Arena.

Isiah Sykes of Helias drives toward the basket during Saturday afternoon’s Class 4 third-place game against Farmington at Mizzou Arena. Photo by Kris Wilson.

COLUMBIA, Mo. — It’s not the overtime win the Helias Crusaders wanted, but they’ll certainly take it.

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Tony Hawley reports

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One day after they suffered a triple-overtime loss in the Class 4 state semifinals, the Crusaders needed just one extra session to capture a win in the third-place game.

Helias scored the first six points of overtime and salvaged something from its trip to state by going on to claim a 60-53 win against Farmington on Saturday afternoon at Mizzou Arena.

It’s the Crusaders’ fourth third-place finish in their five all-time trips to the Final Four, as Helias also has a fourth-place result.

“Third-place game at times can be tough to play in just from a mental standpoint,” Helias coach Josh Buffington said. “Especially for our team coming off such an emotional game (Friday) night, the environment we played in front of, and to come up on the short end of that stick.”

As if the adversity of playing just 14 hours after that tough loss wasn’t enough, the Crusaders also had to overcome some hurdles in the game. Namely, seeing a 13-point third-quarter lead disintegrate, and then seeing an improbable shot force overtime.

With just :05.7 left in regulation, Farmington’s D.J. Hardy banked in a 3-pointer from the left wing to tie it at 46. After a timeout, Helias missed a baseline jumper at the buzzer to send it to overtime.

Helias guard Collin Caywood said his reaction was what you might expect.

“It’s like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me. Not again, not again after last night,’” he said.

Helias center Hale Hentges said the Crusaders quickly regrouped after the shot.

“I thought we had great defense on the shot and he just came up with a great play,” he said. “When you have the four best teams in high-school basketball in one place, plays like that are going to happen. I had the utmost confidence in my team that if we weren’t going to win it there, we were going to win it in overtime.”

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Adam Bax of Helias prepares to go up with a shot during Saturday’s Class 4 third-place game against Farmington at Mizzou Arena.

While it was a huge stroke of luck for the Knights, it was also a bit of a bad omen.

“We haven’t had luck with banked 3s,” Farmington coach Justin Callahan said. “We hit a huge banked 3 from about 35 feet last year to send our district championship game into overtime. Of course, we just knew we had the game won at that point, right? … We lost that one.

“And sure enough, a banked-in 3 today, so we’re just going to have to stop banking them and hit nothing but net, because the banked-in 3s just aren’t working for us.”

After Farmington missed a layup to start overtime, Brock Gerstner drilled a 3 to put Helias in front for good. Adam Bax then came up with a steal on the ensuing possession, drove it down the court and found a streaking Isiah Sykes, who put home a layup as part of a traditional three-point play.

“I never thought we were in jeopardy of losing that game (after Hardy’s 3),” Buffington said. “… We’ve been there before and I trusted our players and I trusted that they would battle through more adversity and come out on the winning side.”

Farmington never got closer than three points after that, and Helias held on for a win that appeared unlikely after the game’s first 51/2 minutes when the Crusaders fell behind 10-4. Worse than the score was the fact Helias appeared to have tired legs after Friday’s marathon game.

However, the Crusaders got a big three-point play by Casey McCollum late in the frame to get within 10-7 after one quarter.

Helias finally got things going during an 18-0 run that bridged the second and third quarters. The Crusaders scored the final 10 points of the first half, taking a 21-16 lead into the locker room, then got the first eight points of the second half.

“We settled in to the game, we started playing with a little more energy,” Buffington said. “We had energy early on, but our mental focus, it took us awhile to get that going.

“What really turned it around was some significant defensive stops time and time and time again. Early on, we were getting deflections and not getting the 50-50 balls. During that run, we were playing great position defense, we were rotating well, rotating fast, and we were getting deflections and coming up with the basketball and then pushing it.”

The Crusaders led by 13 twice in the third quarter, the last time at 31-18 on a layup by Sam Husting.

However, Helias would turn the ball over on four of its next five possessions and suddenly, Farmington had life. The Knights cut the gap to 35-30 heading into the fourth quarter, which featured four lead changes and two ties.

“We’ve been in this situation a lot where we’ve built leads late, and it’s hard to hold leads in high-school basketball games anymore,” Buffington said. “Kids are so athletic and there’s a lot of no-quit in several individuals and several different systems.

“It was no different today and we got on our heels a little bit late. … I really was proud of the way we battled back in overtime, which could have been another tough overtime loss.”

Sykes tied for game-high honors with 16 points, while he was joined in double figures by Gerstner with 12 and Hentges with 11. Caywood was close behind with nine.

“We’ve battled a lot of adversity this year and it was just really important to put that final exclamation point on the season and go out with a bang,” said Hentges, who tied for the game lead with seven rebounds. “I thought we played really well today.”

Jordan Ankrom had 16 points for Farmington (21-11) and was the only Knight to reach double figures.

Helias (23-8), which will lose just two seniors in Gerstner and Michael Tannehill, likely will enter next season with expectations of a return trip to the Final Four. Buffington said with a little bit of luck, the Crusaders might have been playing for a title Saturday instead of third place.

“In the postseason, you have to have some breaks to go all the way,” he said. “We feel like we’ve had a few along the way and maybe at times the ball didn’t bounce our way here at the Final Four, but we’re just really proud of our guys’ effort.”

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