Every pass by the Ozark Lady Tigers had a purpose.
"They move the ball extremely well, they know where they're going with it," Lady Crusaders coach Alan Lepper said after Helias dropped a 54-37 decision Thursday night to Ozark at Rackers Fieldhouse. "They always seem to find the open teammate."
And when they eventually find that open teammate after whipping it around the floor
"They've got four girls who can fill it up outside," Lepper said. "If you leave them open, they can drop it in."
Helias never led in the game, which was tied just once, that coming at 2. A short jumper by Lainy Lamb pulled Helias to within a point at 7-6 before Ozark used a 7-1 run late in the first quarter on its way to a 14-9 lead.
A bucket by Alisha Berhorst to start the second quarter cut Helias' deficit to three. But the Lady Crusaders' offense went stagnant for the next five minutes as the Lady Tigers used a 15-2 run to take a 29-13 advantage.
Ozark led 29-18 at the half.
"We didn't move, we weren't setting good screens and the ball wasn't moving," Lepper said. "When the ball stops, the defense doesn't have to work too hard and it makes it tough to get anything resembling a good shot.
"It's been an issue for us this year, we know that. But I've seen things getting better in practice and we need to keep working on it."
A 3-pointer by Ella Meyer early in the third quarter pulled Helias to within seven at 31-24. On Helias' ensuing possession, Lindsey Byers hit a layup to cut the deficit to five, but was called for a charge.
"That took a little wind out of our sails, but we kept battling," Lepper said. "There were ups and downs, we know we need to work on getting fewer and fewer lulls in games."
Ozark answered with a 10-1 run to take a 41-26 lead into the fourth quarter.
Lepper thought the Lady Crusaders were a little hesitant when they had fast-break opportunities Thursday night.
"It was like we had brakes on," Lepper said.
The Lady Tigers, ranked No. 8 in Class 5, led by as many as 21 points in the fourth quarter.
"The girls know the schedule is tough, but we're trying to take something from each game to build off of and get better for districts and hopefully compete for a title," Lepper said.
One thing learned Thursday night was Helias was more physical.
"We're getting tougher, we're not getting pushed around, we're battling harder for the ball," Lepper said.
Olivia Hanks scored a game-high 17 points for Ozark (15-4). Anna Hitt added 13.
Kylie Bernskoetter paced the Lady Crusaders with 10 points. Rylee Kolb and Berhorst added eight points each.
Helias (6-9) will play Monday at Fatima. The JV game will start at 6 p.m., followed by the varsity contest around 7:30 p.m.
In Thursday's JV game, Helias dropped a 48-42 decision to Ozark. Brooke Reutter had 11 points for Helias (9-3).