The Helias Crusaders falling behind 7-0 to start a game is nothing new. The first quarter hasn't been their strong suit this season.
"We should be used to getting down 7-0," Helias coach Joe Rothweiler said. "But we weren't too worried."
The worry was gone after the Crusaders answered with 16 straight points to end the first quarter against the Clinton Cardinals. Helias cruised to a 78-55 win Thursday on Senior Night at Rackers Fieldhouse.
Helias' starting five consisted of all seniors: Isaac Johnson, Cole Sappenfield, Caleb Justice, Marcus Anthony and Tate Heislen. Colby LeCuru, the team's sixth senior and a regular starter, was the first substitute to enter the game.
"You've got a bit of a different rotation on Senior Night," Rothweiler said. "We love to honor our seniors. The guys that are in practice every day and don't see the floor consistently, they're working just as hard as the guys that you see out there on the floor every day."
Helias started the game 0-of-5 from the floor with two turnovers in the first three minutes. Then Johnson went on a hot streak and it was game over.
Johnson scored 11 straight points, including three 3-pointers, in a two-minute span to put the Crusaders ahead 11-7. They never trailed the rest of the game.
"He saw that we were in a funk, and we were out of character a bit," Rothweiler said of Johnson, who scored a team-high 13 points. "I think he thought it was his time to snap us out of that and get us back on track."
LeCuru added a 3 from the left wing and Damon Johanns scored off a pass from Desmond White to stretch the lead to 16-7. Johanns added a putback on the first possession of the second quarter to give Helias 18 unanswered points.
Helias led Clinton 26-13 with five minutes to play in the second quarter. The Cardinals stayed in the game with the help of Cade Mantonya, who made three straight 3s and scored 13 of his game-high 22 points in the second quarter.
"He had a great game," Rothweiler said. "He hit several 3s early on and kept them in it. We didn't do a very good job finding him at times."
Sappenfield, making his first career start for the Crusaders, took a pass from Jeff Szumigala and scored a wide-open layup just before halftime to give Helias a 36-29 lead at the break.
"He took a year off last year, and it set him back a little bit," Rothweiler said of Sappenfield. "We love having him back and he's in the program, coming to practice and pushing us every single day."
Five of Helias' six seniors scored in the first half. Heislen got in the scoring column late in the third quarter with a pair of 3s to push the Crusaders' lead to 61-39.
The Helias student section often called for Sappenfield and Heislen to be put in the game when they were on the bench. Heislen drew the biggest cheer of the night when he hit his second 3 in front of the student section.
"I don't think he's ever missed a practice," Rothweiler said of Heislen. "He doesn't get the glory on the court, but his teammates love him and he's working his butt off in practice every single day."
Helias led by as many as 27 points in the fourth quarter. Eleven Crusaders scored, including Aaron Klahr, who had five points in the final minute.
The Crusaders scored 78 points on 71 shot attempts.
"We like to play fast like that, and they seemed like they wanted to, too," Rothweiler said.
Anthony matched Johnson with 13 points and Johanns added 12 points for Helias (14-5), which will host Jefferson City on Tuesday. The varsity girls game starts at 6 p.m., followed by the varsity boys game at 7:30 p.m.
"It's a big week for us," said Rothweiler, adding the Crusaders play rivalry games against Rolla and St. Francis Borgia later in the week. "We have several challenging games in these last two weeks."
Chevy Renfrow added 11 points and eight rebounds for Clinton (3-16).
In the JV game, Helias won 59-26. Colby Gate led the Crusaders with 12 points and Noah Voss and Grant Melloway added eight and seven points, respectively.
Helias started the tripleheader with a 68-18 win in the freshman game. Jacob Rembecki had a team-high 18 points for the Crusaders.