It was pretty simple, the Helias Lady Crusaders just played basketball.
"We were just going with it," Lady Crusaders senior Lainy Lamb said Thursday night after Helias upended Class 3 No. 1 Strafford 55-45 at Rackers Fieldhouse.
The week got off to an ugly start for the Lady Crusaders with a six-point home loss Monday to Camdenton. The next night, Helias led Class 4 No. 3 Rolla by a point on the road at halftime before falling by 16.
But this was a new night. And a different Helias team.
"This attitude change came after the Camdenton game and it was solidified after the second half of the Rolla game," Helias coach Alan Lepper said. "There was a different feeling on the floor. The girls came in more focused."
A short jumper by Rylee Kolb gave Helias an 8-6 lead with 2:30 remaining in the first quarter. Stafford, keyed by a pair of 3-pointers from the top of the key by Logan Jones, closed the quarter on an 8-2 run to take a 14-10 lead.
Mica Chadwell of the Lady Indians started the scoring in the second quarter with a steal and a layup to push Strafford's lead to six.
But Lamb and the Lady Crusaders weren't going to go away. She scored six points in the next 1:10, capped by a 3-pointer, to pull Helias into a tie at 16.
"It really boosted our energy, we really needed to come out with high energy," Lamb said.
The game was tied at 19 before the Lady Crusaders rattled off the next seven points to take the lead. Helias never trailed again and led 31-23 at the half.
"I think we came out strong, especially in our transition game," Lamb said. "Our passes were just on."
The Lady Crusaders were comfortable playing 94 feet against the Lady Indians.
"We knew we had to run the floor because we didn't think our half-court offense was going to work because they were all up on us," Lamb said.
It was as good a half of basketball as Helias had played in a while.
"Sometimes we become too mechanical and we wanted to bring our our talent," Lepper said. "We came out and played the game of basketball.
"Sometimes we hold the ball too much. Everything should be moving, the ball should be moving, the players should be moving. We just had a better flow tonight."
The Lady Indians came out with a more pressure style of defense in the second half.
"Strafford is going to put pressure on you, we knew they could come out with a little tighter defense," Lepper said.
After committing nine turnovers in the first half, Helias had 15 in the final two quarters. But the Lady Indians weren't able to convert those extra opportunities into points.
Strafford got as close as six points in the third quarter, that coming at 36-30, before a putback at the buzzer by Alisha Berhorst gave Helias a 40-31 advantage.
"Alisha is starting to learn her role, which is under the basket and getting rebounds," Lepper said. "When she gets the ball around the basket, usually it's going to go in."
Lindsey Byers hit a pair of 3-pointers to start the fourth quarter to give Helias its biggest lead of the night at 46-31. The first was from NBA depth right in front of the Helias bench.
"That was deep, I was thinking 'no' until it went in," Lepper said.
The closest Strafford would get in the fourth quarter was eight points with :12.2 remaining.
Byers finished with game-high totals of 19 points and 10 rebounds. Helias, which has struggled to get rebounds in recent games, finished with a 27-20 edge on the boards Thursday night.
"We're not overly tall, but we can put bodies on somebody," Lepper said. "We needed to be at least even with them and we did better than that."
Kolb added 11 points for the Lady Crusaders, while Lamb totaled 10.
Jones led the Lady Indians (9-2) with 15 points.
Strafford, the four-time defending Class 3 state champion, had its state-record 123-game winning streak snapped Dec. 28 by Republic 43-42 in the Pink & White Tournament in Springfield. The Lady Indians won their next two games going into Thursday night.
It was Strafford's first double-digit loss since a 64-46 defeat against Crane on Dec. 5, 2015. Strafford and Crane both won state championships that season.
It's too soon to know what the win will mean for the rest of the season for the Lady Crusaders.
"But this shows what we can be," Lepper said. "Our record could be better, we've lost some close games, but those games are over.
"The Camdenton game could have really been costly for the rest of the season. But the girls are starting to believe in themselves right now as a unit."
Helias (5-6) is scheduled to play Saturday night at Mid-Buchanan, weather permitting.
In Thursday night's JV game, Helias defeated Strafford 53-42. Ella Meyer paced the Lady Crusaders with 12 points.