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Familiar foe for Helias in Great 8 Classic opener

Familiar foe for Helias in Great 8 Classic opener

December 7th, 2017 by Greg Jackson in Sports Prep

Helias coach Josh Buffington talks Wednesday about playing in the upcoming Joe Machens Great 8 Classic.

Photo by Julie Smith /News Tribune.

The Helias Crusaders learned they'll get a rematch when they play their first-round matchup in the Joe Machens Great 8 Classic.

Helias will face Owasso (Okla.), a team it defeated 59-51 in the 2015 tournament en route to a second-place finish.

"They're very well-coached and very well-prepared," Helias coach Josh Buffington said during Wednesday's media conference for the Classic, which will be held Dec. 28-30 at Fleming Fieldhouse. "They're always athletic."

First-round matchups featuring the Crusaders have been entertaining in recent years.

Last season, Landon Harrison broke the Classic's single-game scoring record with 44 points in an 88-80 win against Oxford (Miss.).

"I think every first-round game I've played in the Great 8 in my 10 years has felt like a championship game," Buffington said. "Almost at certain times, it has felt like a Final Four game.

"It's so much fun, the place is rocking, the community is hyped up for Day 1 of the tournament."

Jarkel Joiner, who is starting as a freshman this season at Cal-State Bakersfield, finished with 40 points for Oxford in the loss to Helias. He would go on to shatter the tournament scoring record, posting 124 points in three games.

Helias has won its first-round game in the Classic in eight of the past nine seasons. Buffington said the Crusaders will have to continue to maintain focus to stay on the right side of the bracket.

"The Great 8 is always a turning point in our season," Buffington said. "Regardless of how we do in this tournament, it's a team-builder for us as much as an evaluator on the court."

Helias will play Owasso in the second game of the day during the first round at 5:30 p.m.

The Crusaders will either play Raytown South or Hyde Park (Ill.) — a team from Chicago making its first appearance in Classic — on Day 2.

"It's hard to focus on your second-round opponent, whether you go left or right, until you take care of that first-round game," Buffington said. "We really have to lock in on Owasso."