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story.lead_photo.caption Kylie Bernskoetter of Helias guards the in-bounds pass during last season's Class 4 sectional game against Sullivan in Rolla. Photo by Greg Jackson / News Tribune.

The Helias Lady Crusaders are looking to hit the ground running this basketball season.

"Make or miss, get the ball to the other end of the floor," Helias coach Garrett Wiggans said as the Lady Crusaders get set to open the season tonight against the Blair Oaks Lady Falcons in Wardsville. "If we don't have to get into a half-court set, that's great and gives us a good chance of winning."

Wiggans believes the Lady Crusaders have the personnel to succeed in that style.

"These girls can run," he said. "They've shown me that in practice. I can't take it easy on the them in practice because we have to be ready for the games."

Wiggans is in his first year as head coach for the Lady Crusaders. There have been changes, both subtle and big, in the gym during the preseason.

"I'm sure the girls are surprised about how intense I can get in practice, whether it's on a simple drill they've been running since they were 5, or when I throw something new at them," Wiggans said. "I'm not letting them get away with little mistakes, we need to focus on the little things because that's what is going to win us basketball games."

The Lady Crusaders have embraced his coaching style.

"The first couple of weeks have been up and down, but it's like that in any sport," Wiggans said. "The girls are trying to figure out my coaching style, but every day, we can see improvement and that's what we want."

Helias has just two seniors — Lindsey Byers and Kylie Bernskoetter — returning from last year's district championship team. Both were all-district selections.

Wiggans coached Byers and Bernskoetter when they were freshmen.

"I'm very blessed in my first year to have Lindsey and Kylie," Wiggans said. "I've seen them grow as players.

"They know what kind of style I want to play and they help me by being coaches on the floor."

The Lady Crusaders also only have two juniors — Jacie Buschjost and Samantha Ehmke — so it will be a young team on the floor a lot this season. There are six sophomores and seven freshmen on the Helias roster.

"We are going to be very young, but we are talented," Wiggans said. "These girls have played a lot of basketball, they know how the game is played."

Among the younger group that figures to see playing time are sophomores Mikah Edwards and Brooke Reuter, along with freshman Adalyn Koelling.

"Our freshmen can't play like freshmen, they can't act like freshmen," Wiggans said. "We can't afford to have that and I've seen in practice they've embraced that by doing things right."

Aside from Byers and Bernskoetter, the Lady Crusaders haven't settled on a starting lineup.

"There will be some game-time decisions," Wiggans said. "But a lot of freshmen are going to get big varsity minutes."

One thing key to the running style is putting the ball in the basket. That's an area the Lady Crusaders are still working on in practice.

"We have to finish," Wiggans said. "I'll be harping on that all season.

"We can't come away empty in those situations where we are shooting layups, whether it's getting a basket or going to the free-throw line."

The schedule figures to be a challenge, including two games each against Jefferson City, Hickman and Blair Oaks.

"It will be tough competition every game," Wiggans said.

Currently, Helias' first home game of the season is Dec. 21 against Fatima.

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