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The Helias Lady Crusaders opened the fourth quarter with a basket on their first possession.

Unfortunately for the Lady Crusaders, it turned out to be their last basket of the game.

"We weren't taking care of the basketball and we weren't finishing around the rim," Helias coach Garrett Wiggans said Thursday night after the Lady Crusaders dropped a 53-46 decision to the Rock Bridge Bruins in Central Missouri Activities Conference action at Rackers Fieldhouse. "We had several opportunities to put the ball through the hoop, get to the free-throw line.

"But we didn't do a good job of attacking like we had done for the first three quarters."

Lindsey Byers drove to the basket to score early in the fourth quarter to give the Lady Crusaders a 43-40 lead in a battle of top-five teams in their respective classes.

Averi Kroenke answered with a 3-pointer for the Bruins to tie the game at 43 before Kylie Bernskoetter's free throw with 5:12 remaining gave the Lady Crusaders their last lead of the night at 44-43.

Haylie Sims' 3-pointer with 3:50 left gave Rock Bridge a 46-44 lead. Adayln Koelling hit two free throws with 2:29 remaining to pull Helias into a tie at 46.

"We did a lot of things well in the game, up to the last couple of minutes, I felt good with where we were at," Wiggans said. "But we have to learn how to finish a game like this."

A 3-pointer by Sims with 1:45 left gave Rock Bridge the lead for good at 49-46. Kroenke then went 4-for-4 at the free-throw line in the final :22 to account for the rest of the Bruins' points.

The seven-point final margin was Rock Bridge's biggest led of the game.

"Credit Rock Bridge, they're a very good team," Wiggans said.

The Bruins scored seven of the game's first nine points on their way to a 17-13 lead after one quarter. Kroenke had nine points and four rebounds in the quarter.

"Averi Kroenke is a very special player," Wiggans said. "She was everywhere, tough to guard."

Helias used a 6-0 run in a low-scoring second quarter to take its first lead of the game. Jacie Buschjost's bucket on a physical play near the basket gave the Lady Crusaders a 22-21 advantage with 1:30 to go before intermission. Rock Bridge's Kate Linnemeyer answered with a 3-pointer on the other end as the Bruins took a 24-22 lead into intermission.

Both offenses heated up in the third quarter.

Helias entered the game thinking Adalyn Koelling was going to be open on 3-point opportunities Thursday night. After shooting just one in the opening two quarters, the 6-foot-1 freshman opened the third quarter with a 3-pointer to give Helias the lead.

It was one of three 3s Koelling hit in an 11-point quarter.

"She knocked down some really big shots," Wiggans said. "She got hot and that's exactly what we needed."

Koelling finished with 15 points to lead three Lady Crusaders in double figures. Bernskoetter added 11 points, while Byers totaled 10.

Kroenke finished with a double-double for Rock Bridge, scoring 24 points and pulling down 10 rebounds. Sims added 11 points.

With the win, Class 6 No. 4 Rock Bridge (18-4, 5-1) wrapped up second place in the Central Missouri Activities Conference.

Class 5 No. 5 Helias (18-5, 4-2) will open District 9 Tournament play Monday when the third-seeded Lady Crusaders travel to West Plains to take on the second-seeded Zizzers in the semifinals

"We've got tough girls, we're ready for districts," Wiggans said. "With the seed that we got, I think we have something to prove."

Game time is 5:30 p.m.

In Thursday's JV game, Helias defeated Rock Bridge 45-35. Claire Manns led Helias with 13 points, while Ava Morris added 11.

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