The Blair Oaks Lady Falcons led by as many as 13 points Tuesday night. The Helias Lady Crusaders led by as many as nine.
Anybody who didn't expect it to finish as a one-possession game hasn't been paying attention.
For the fourth straight season in the series, the road team captured a close decision as the Lady Falcons held off the Lady Crusaders 54-51 at Rackers Fieldhouse.
"We really played hard and I'm proud of that," Blair Oaks coach Darren Heckman said.
In the last four years, Blair Oaks has outscored Helias 204-202.
"That's a typical game between us ever since I've been the head coach," Helias coach Alan Lepper said. "Neither team is going to lay down and give up, they're going to fight, no matter what the score is."
Helias had the better of play early.The Lady Crusaders closed the first quarter on a 9-0 run, capped by a 3-pointer by Lindsey Byers, to take their biggest lead of the night at 13-4.
"We hyperventilated at the start," Heckman said.
The Lady Falcons clawed its way back in the second quarter, with a 3-pointer by Alyssa Hargus tying the game at 19 with 1:10 to before halftime. A free throw by Rylee Kolb in the final minute gave Helias a 20-19 lead at intermission.
A layup by Hargus with 6:30 to go in the third quarter gave Blair Oaks its first lead of the game at 23-22. The Lady Falcons dominated the third quarter, outscoring the Lady Crusaders 17-3 in the final seven minutes to take a 38-23 advantage.
"We guarded a little bit, that was the big thing," Heckman said.
After committing just two turnovers in the first quarter, the Lady Crusaders had 10 in the next two.
"It was like running into a brick wall and finding a cliff was there," Lepper said. "And we fell off."
A basket by Kaitlyn Kolb with 6:30 remaining made it 42-29 in favor of Blair Oaks.
Now it was Helias' turn to claw back. The Lady Crusaders outscored the Lady Falcons 15-6 during the next three minutes to cut their deficit to 48-44.
"We got frazzled," Heckman said. "I had to remind myself to be patient with them because we have a lot of girls who haven't played much."
Neither team scored in the next minute before a layup by Byers pulled Helias to within two at 48-46.
Blair Oaks turned it over on its next possession, but Helias could not take advantage as it missed a 3-pointer.
Mallorie Fick then converted a three-point play to give the Lady Falcons a 51-46 lead. She then added two more from the line with :23.1 remaining to push Blair Oaks' lead to seven.
Fick, a sophomore, finished with a team-high 19 points.
"When she catches it, she can go both ways with it, she can be tough to guard when she attacks," Heckman said.
A 3-pointer by Byers on Helias' next possession cut the deficit to four. Rylee Kolb then got a steal and layup with :07 remaining and it was a two-point game at 53-51.
Hargus hit one of two free throws with :04.2 remaining to make it 54-51. A halfcourt heave by Helias to potentially tie the game at the buzzer went over the backboard.
"You never want to lose the first game, but this won't define our season," Lepper said.
Blair Oaks went 12-of-15 at the line in the fourth quarter to account for its only free throws in the game.
"We shot them better than we have in practice," Heckman said. "A couple more would have been nice, made it a little easier."
Hargus added 15 points for Blair Oaks (1-0), who will open play in the Tri-County Conference Tournament against School of the Osage at 8:30 p.m. Monday in Versailles.
Kolb finished with a double-double for the Lady Crusaders, totaling 20 points and 12 rebounds.
"Rylee has a high motor and she just goes and hates to lose," Lepper said. "She was going to do everything she could to win the game."
Byers added 15 for the Lady Crusaders, who are off until Dec. 12 when they play at Father Tolton.
"We need to get better at what we need to do, starting with our intensity level," Lepper said. "When we step on the floor, we can't play at a low intensity like we did tonight. That's on me."
In Tuesday's JV game, Helias posted a 49-30 victory against Blair Oaks. Sammie Ehmke had 16 points for Helias, while Emma Wolken totaled 13 for Blair Oaks.