It didn't take long to turn into a one-sided contest at Rackers Fieldhouse. It was just a matter of a few minutes.
The Helias Crusaders reeled off 34 unanswered points in the first half Tuesday night, holding the Eldon Mustangs scoreless for more than 10 minutes. The run by itself proved to be more than enough for the Crusaders in a 60-26 win against their district foe.
Helias coach Josh Buffington didn't realize until after the game his team went on a 34-0 run. He wasn't too focused on the scoreboard when it had Helias ahead 37-2 with three minutes to play in the first half.
"We create so much offense based off of our defensive intensity," Buffington said. "That's why we were scoring. Our pace was better and we turned them over a lot during that 10-minute stretch.
"We were able to get some easy baskets, and when you get easy baskets, it builds confidence."
The Helias offense couldn't get shots to fall during the first three minutes of the game, holding just a 3-2 advantage. Then Dalton Weaver attacked the basket, scored a layup and drew a foul with 4:37 to go in the opening quarter.
It didn't seem like a landmark play at the time, but it was a play that got the Crusaders rolling.
"We were just trying to play inside-out, and that was a big play for us from Dalton," Buffington said. "We do our best offensively to share the ball, spread it around and play inside-out off our bigs. Our guys played very unselfish, especially in that first quarter."
Helias ended the first quarter on a 19-0 run to lead 22-2 after eight minutes. Eldon's only basket came from Kaiden Mays.
The Crusaders' defense forced nine turnovers in the first quarter, while the Mustangs managed just seven shot attempts.
Landon Harrison kept the run going to begin the second quarter, knocking down a pair of 3-pointers and hitting a pair of free throws. His second 3 from the left wing with 3:02 to play in the half pushed the lead to 37-2.
"Landon did a great job of running the show tonight," Buffington said. "It was good to see out of him. He had a lot of trust in his teammates."
When Eldon's Andrew Rodriguez snapped the run with a basket with 2:48 left in the first half — snapping a 10-minute, 18-second drought for the Mustangs — the play drew a louder applause from the Helias student section than from the Eldon fans.
The Mustangs added a pair of 3s late in the first half and finally had some momentum, but by then the half had come to an end, with the Crusaders leading 41-10.
In the second half, Buffington called off the full-court press, which allowed Eldon to settle in and score 13 points in the third quarter.
Harrison led Helias with 19 points, while Marcus Anthony added 11 points off the bench. Nathan Bax fell shy of a double-double, recording 10 points and nine rebounds, but he grabbed seven of those rebounds in the first quarter.
"He's just a very physical athlete," Buffington said of Bax. " They were very physical with him around the basket when he had the ball, so he was forced into some tough finishes around the rim."
Weaver added a game-high 10 rebounds for the Crusaders and Alex Buschjost chipped in eight points.
Eldon (1-11) was led by Rodriguez with eight points. The Mustangs entered the game coming off their first win of the season last Friday against Warsaw in the seventh-place game of the Tri-County Conference Tournament.
Tuesday's game was the first of two games this week for Helias (11-2) against district opponents. The Crusaders also play Friday at Rolla in their next contest.
"We try to get a couple of district teams on the schedule right in the middle of the season, right before we head down the stretch with some rivalry games," Buffington said.
Helias also won the JV game 51-26 against Eldon. The Crusaders led 11-2 after one quarter, 21-6 at halftime and 38-13 through three quarters.
Jake VanLoo led Helias (5-1) with 16 points and Colby LeCuru added 14 points.