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story.lead_photo.caption Mikah Edwards of Helias takes a 3-pointer during Thursday's game against Capital City at Capital City High School. Photo by Liv Paggiarino / News Tribune.

The work in practice paid off during the game.

The Helias Lady Crusaders have stressed turning defense into offense and it definitely showed Thursday night.

"A big focus of ours has been half-court defense, we've worked on it and talked about until we're blue in the face," Lady Crusaders coach Garrett Wiggans said after Helias defeated Capital City 84-20 in Central Missouri Activities Conference action at Capital City High School. "The girls understand that a good half-court defense will lead to steals and steals lead to layups."

They did Thursday night as Helias turned 11 turnovers by Capital City into several easy baskets in a 30-point first quarter.

"It got away from us," Capital City coach Ashley Agee said. "We've been off for five days with no practice (due to the weather) and with a young team like we have and with our point guard out, we were missing a leader on the floor.

"We were playing at their pace and we weren't getting back. We're the type of team that needs to practice every day to stay focused. We're not at the maturity level right now where we can take days off."

Helias scored the first 14 points of the game on its way to a 30-6 lead after one quarter. Lady Crusader freshman post player Adalyn Koelling finished the quarter with 12 points and four rebounds.

"A lot of girls her size will live on the block or think they're a 3-point shooter, but she can do both," Wiggans said. "She's active, she's not going to sit in one spot and expect the ball to come to her. She will move and demand the basketball."

Helias closed the second quarter on an 11-0 run and took a 53-13 advantage into intermission.

"Anytime a team is averaging 25 points a quarter, you won't have much of a chance," Agee said.

The Lady Crusaders led 79-20 going into the fourth quarter, which was played with a running clock.

"They started passing the ball and running clock instead of trying to score 100 points, which they could have easily done," Agee said.

Helias dressed just eight players, so there wasn't much depth to go to in the fourth quarter.

"We tried to be respectful, especially toward the end," Wiggans said. "We were rotating a lot, playing girls in different positions.

"You play with who you have and you respect your opponent."

Capital City (2-21 overall, 0-5 CMAC) will wrap up conference play Tuesday night at Sedalia Smith-Cotton before ending the regular season at home Thursday against Mexico.

"We have to stay with it," Agee said. "We can't quit on ourselves, we have to come out (today) in practice with a good effort to get ready for our next game. You don't look at the big picture, you have to take things like basketball day by day and just work on making ourselves better and not get overwhelmed."

Lindsey Byers led Helias with 19 points. Earlier Thursday, the Missouri State signee was announced as a McDonald's All-America nominee.

"She definitely earned that, she worked hard for it," Wiggans said. "She's a talented ballplayer and a big reason why we're at where we're at."

Agee earned the honor in 2007 at Moberly High School.

"The boys coach (Darrin Young) was teasing me today, he didn't believe I got that," Agees said. "It's an awesome honor for the girls. I remember getting it and at the time, I wasn't sure what it meant. But now to see that only 700 girls around the nation get that, hat's off to all the local girls."

Also earning the honor were Jefferson City teammates Sarah Linthacum and Hannah Nilges, Paige Clubb of South Callaway and Halle Smith of Belle.

Koelling added 18 points while sharing game-high honors with teammate Jacie Buschjost with seven rebounds. Kylie Bernskoetter totaled 17 points for the Lady Crusaders.

It was the first of three games in three days for the Class 5 No. 4 Lady Crusaders (14-3, 4-1). Helias will play at 6 p.m. today at Class 4 No. 1 Vashon in St. Louis before crossing the state to take on Lincoln College Prep at 2 p.m. Saturday at St. Joseph Benton.

"We might just drive through Jeff City on our way back and just keep going," Wiggans said. "But we're going to need to learn how to play on the road with districts coming up."

Helias is the No. 3 seed in Class 5 District 9 Tournament and will open at second-seeded West Plains in the semifinals at 5:30 p.m., Monday, March 1.

III

On Thursday night, Helias hosted Blair Oaks in a JV game and defeated the Lady Falcons 53-26.

Ava Morris had 23 for the Lady Crusaders (11-3), while Karoline Klebba added 17.

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