WARDSVILLE — Helias worked plenty on beating the press, knowing that's what it would face Tuesday at Blair Oaks.
The Lady Falcons' defense got the better of the Lady Crusaders early, but it didn't last as Helias passed its way through the pressure for quick points and ended up causing havoc with its defense on the way to a 62-49 victory to open the season.
"It was shaky at times tonight, but the girls have really bought into what I'm trying to teach and coach," Helias coach Garrett Wiggans said. "And they bought into each other. I think you just saw a taste of it tonight what they can do. And just being patient. A press is meant to speed you up, which we do to teams too, but we have to be patient and make sure we get a good possession."
Seven of Blair Oaks' first eight points followed a steal, including a layup for Bailey Rissmiller that put the Lady Falcons ahead 8-2 just 2:30 into the game.
"We went with our three-quarter court press and I think it's really effective," Blair Oaks coach Brandon Moore said.
Kadence Kliegal splashed home a 3-pointer from the corner off a Blair Oaks steal to end the first-quarter scoring at 13-6.
The Blair Oaks lead reached 19-6 on back-to-back Mallorie Fick 3-pointers.
Fick made five 3-pointers on her way to a team-high 19 points.
Then the turnovers shifted the other direction.
Lindsey Byers slapped the ball away and made a jumper. Then Adalyn Koelling got going inside with a layup and a jumper, and Byers closed the gap to 19-18 with a corner 3-pointer.
Koelling led Helias with 22 points and eight rebounds.
"Just stay the process, move the basketball, be strong with it, take care of it, and it's got to go through the hoop," Wiggans said. "For a while we were searching for shots and then they finally came."
Blair Oaks opened the lead back up a bit on layups by Natalie Heckman, Fick and Rissmiller. The margin was 27-22 at halftime.
Rissmiller finished with 12 points and five rebounds.
"I think we competed," Moore said. "We came out really good. We talked about getting off to a quick start and I think they did a good job of that. We weathered a storm there in the first half."
The second half began with Byers picking off a pass in a full-court defense and Kylie Bernskoetter turned it into a pair of free throws.
Helias took its first lead at 29-27 on a Mikah Edwards 3-pointer with 6:09 left in the third quarter and the Lady Crusaders never trailed again.
"Whenever you play the first game in any sport it's gonna be a little rocky," Wiggans said. "You're gonna have turnovers, ups and downs. But the main goal is, can we make adjustments? Can we get better and get back to just playing basketball?"
Helias built a comfortable lead by going to Koelling, who put in a layup off a Byers steal for a 37-28 lead and added two free throws for a 39-31 advantage at the end of the third quarter.
"There's not a whole lot of girls around that we play that are her size and athletic," Wiggans said of the 6-foot-1 Koelling. " When she gets the ball on the block, she's hard to stop and that is very, very key for us."
Byers scored 13 points and pulled down a team-high nine rebounds for Helias. Bernskoetter added 10 points.
Autumn Bax grabbed a team-high nine rebounds for Blair Oaks.
"I thought she did a really good job tonight," Moore said. "She's doing some really good things. She held her own in there."
Helias (1-0) is off until Monday, Dec. 7, when it plays at Camdenton.
Blair Oaks (1-1) will return to the floor Monday as it hosts the Tri-County Conference Tournament. The No. 4 seed Lady Falcons will open against No. 5 seed Hallsville at 5:30 p.m.