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story.lead_photo.caption Claire Manns of Helias attempts to drive past Mallorie Fick of Blair Oaks during Tuesday night's game at Rackers Fieldhouse. Photo by Ethan Weston

The season couldn't have gotten off to a much better start for the Helias Lady Crusaders.

Helias used a strong defensive effort on its way to a 57-40 victory Tuesday night against the Blair Oaks Lady Falcons at Rackers Fieldhouse.

"Creating havoc on the defensive end is going to be a key for us, especially when we can turn them into points on the other end," Helias coach Garrett Wiggans said. "Stealing an extra possession here and there is big for us."

For Blair Oaks, it was a tough night on the offensive end.

"We felt like we were getting the shots that we needed, it's just a matter of knocking them down," Blair Oaks coach Brandon Moore said. "I think as the season goes on, the reps will get us better at that, I'm sure of it."

Helias got off to a great start, jumping out to a 12-1 lead midway through the first quarter. But Blair Oaks settled down and answered with a 13-1 run, capped by a 3-pointer by Grace Boessen, to take its only lead of the game at 14-13 with 1:19 left in the quarter.

"Once we settled in, it started to flow a lot better," Moore said.

Adalyn Koelling put back a rebound with :10 left to give Helias a 15-14 advantage going to the second quarter.

"We came out with a lot of fire," Wiggans said. "Then we got a little lackadaisical on the defensive end and they got back in it."

The scoring slowed in the second quarter as the teams combined for just 14 points. The Lady Crusaders outscored the Lady Falcons 14-4 in the quarter to take a 25-18 lead into halftime.

Blair Oaks was just 6-of-20 from the field in the first half, including a 3-of-14 performance on 3-pointers.

"We had wide-open looks in rhythm and we just didn't knock them down, no matter if they were 3s or 2s, it just didn't matter," Moore said. "We get a couple of those to go, it's a lot closer game and we feel better going into the second half."

Six of the nine Lady Crusaders who played in the first half scored.

"It was a total team win," Wiggans said. "I trust all the girls to play well, I feel like I can put anybody in the game at any time."

Helias began to pull away in the third quarter. The Lady Crusaders led by as many as 18 points, that coming on a layup by Claire Manns with 3:20 left to make it 41-23.

Those were last points of the quarter for Helias, as Blair Oaks closed with a 4-0 spurt to make it 41-27.

An 8-3 run to start the fourth quarter gave the Lady Crusaders their biggest lead of the game at 49-30 with six minutes left. Blair Oaks got as close as 12 points at 51-39 on a 3-pointer by Mallorie Fick with 2:30 remaining.

Grace Boessen paced a balanced Blair Oaks attack with 10 points.

"We couldn't have asked for any more from her, she's the one that really led us from the intensity standpoint," Moore said.

Emma Wolken and Fick added nine points each for Blair Oaks, while Autumn Bax chipped in with eight points. Bax and Jazmin Reinkemeyer had seven rebounds each.

Blair Oaks (1-1), which opened the season Monday night with a 58-46 win at Camdenton, is back in action next week in the Tri-County Conference Tournament at Boonville. The third-seeded Lady Falcons open against the sixth-seeded Eldon Lady Mustangs at 8:30 p.m. Monday.

"I'm not satisfied, I don't know if you ever can be," Moore said. "Helias is a good team with good players, I would have liked to compete a little more.

"This is a good measuring stick for us. I think this game showed us some glaring things we need to work on and we're going to do that."

Manns totaled a game-high 17 points for Helias.

"When it's game-time, she really turns it on," Wiggans said. "She's fun to watch. She played exactly like we knew she could, scoring and playing great defense."

Koelling chipped in with 15 points, while Mikah Edwards led the Lady Crusaders with eight rebounds.

Ava Morris, in her first varsity start, finished with eight points and five rebounds.

"I wasn't planning on starting Ava and she wasn't planning on starting," Wiggans said. "But she earned that starting spot and she proved me right for starting her.

"Rebounding, scoring the ball, playing good defense, hats off to her, she played so well."

Helias (1-0) is the No. 1 seed in next week's Comet Classic in Westphalia. The Lady Crusaders will start tournament play against Sedalia Smith-Cotton at 4 p.m. Monday.

In Tuesday night's JV game, Helias defeated Blair Oaks 45-14. Alaina Meyer and Lauren Verslues had 11 points each for the Lady Crusaders, while Abby Verslues added 10. Courtney Russell led Blair Oaks with six points.

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