Isiah Sykes put the Helias Crusaders on his back.
The junior point guard scored 15 of his game-high 31 points in the fourth quarter to help Helias rally for a 61-55 victory against Battle on Tuesday night in the Crusaders' season opener at Rackers Gym.
"If that's what I have to do to help my team win, that's what I'm going to do," Sykes said of his career high.
Helias trailed 51-39 heading into the final period. It was the Isiah Sykes Show after that. The 5-foot-10 guard scored seven straight points to open the frame, getting it done on a jumper, a 3-pointer and a layup. A 3 from Adam Bax got the Crusaders within 51-49.
After Battle stopped the run with a bucket, Bax hit a jumper before Sykes tied the game at 53 on a pair of free throws with 4:01 left.
Battle regained the lead on a layup from Daviante Ostrander, going for two of his team-high 22 points. The Spartans didn't score again.
Sykes took it to the rack on consecutive possessions, finishing at the rim to give Helias its first lead since the opening minutes of the game at 57-55 with 1:08 left. Following a defensive stop, it was Sykes again driving for a layup to put the score at 59-55 with 18 seconds remaining.
"He's a very talented player," Helias head coach Josh Buffington said. "His talent really took over for us in the second half... Tonight you saw Isiah put up some big numbers offensively. It came at a time when we really needed it."
Boy, did the Crusaders ever.
After Helias opened the game with five straight points from - who else? - Sykes, it was all Battle for the first three quarters. Sykes didn't find the scoreboard again until the second half.
"I think Isiah was putting a lot of pressure on himself early on," Buffington said. "He knew he was going to have to play big-time minutes. It's his junior year. He was doing some things very uncharacteristic of him in the first half. He settled down in the locker room at halftime, made better decisions offensively, obviously got a few tough ones to go down. It really boosted our team's energy."
It was a pair of Battle guards - the freshman Ostrander and sophomore Tyler Gray - who stole the spotlight for the first 24 minutes. Alongside Ostrander's 22-point effort, Gray added 20 of his own.
"Their team runs through those two guards," Buffington said. "They have the ball in their hands 80 percent of the time. They made some very impressive plays tonight."
That combination handed Battle a 14-9 lead after one quarter. After Helias cut the deficit to 20-18, Ostrander proved to be the catalyst for a late surge that gave the Spartans a 29-21 halftime edge.
Helias got within 29-27 on an old-fashioned three-points play from Hale Hentges - who finished with 12 points and a game-high six rebounds - and a trey from Sykes.
A trio of 3s - two from Gray sandwiched around an Ostrander triple - quickly put Battle's lead up to 38-27. Helias got within six before those Battle guards split eight points between them to put the Spartans ahead 51-39 heading into the fourth quarter.
"They're real strong guards, especially for a sophomore and a freshman," Sykes said of the duo. "It's going to be exciting seeing them play over the next couple years. I'll look forward to playing against them."
That's when Sykes and Helias took over, using a 22-4 advantage in the final period to pick up the win.
"We just had a long talk in the locker room, and we're not going to make any excuses," Buffington said of his team's play during the first 24 minutes. "We played some poor basketball at times tonight. ... We can not be a Jekyll and Hyde team this year. We have some really good pieces. I think you saw glimpses of what we can do offensively there in the fourth quarter."
It wasn't just the offense that ratcheted it up, Helias' defense forced eight fourth-quarter turnovers.
"We picked up the pressure defensively and forced them into some turnovers, which allowed us to get some quick and easy buckets to get the game back to where it was very reachable," Buffington said.
It was all in Sykes' capable hands after that.
"I just made shots and got my team motivated," he said. "We all came out and played hard in the second half, and that led us to a victory."
Helias (1-0) plays Shawnee Mission (Kan.) East at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the Shawnee Mission Tournament.
Helias won the JV game 43-36. Brad Kemna paced the Crusaders with 11 points.