Closer than Siamese twins

Most loser's bracket games have the passion of yogurt.

Then again, you have games like this.

This was two good friends fighting over the ugly girl next door.

But oh my, what a fight it was --- this ugly duckling turned into a fabulous swan.

In an intense, emotional, high-level and entertaining affair, Isiah Sykes hit four free throws in a 29-second span down the stretch of the second overtime as the Helias Crusaders pulled out a 70-68 win over the Jefferson City Jays in the Joe Machens Great 8 Classic on Saturday at Fleming Fieldhouse.

"Oh, man, that's the best game in my six years with Jeff City, no question," Helias coach Josh Buffington said. "It was intense from the opening tip to the final buzzer. If you can't have fun playing in that game or as a fan, if you can't have fun watching it, there's something wrong with you.

"That's what high school basketball is all about."

This ordeal had more of a winner-take-all feel to it, instead the winner getting to play for the forget-me-not fifth-place trophy.

And it was closer than Siamese twins --- five ties and 15 lead changes, the last eight of those coming from the final 3 1/2 minutes of regulation to the end of the second overtime.

"It was the best game for us after what happened last night (a 51-39 loss to Louisville-Western), because we were really on our guys to come out and respond," Buffington said. "What better way to respond than to go against your crosstown rival?"

We will dispense with the first 3 1/2 quarters in short order. The game was tied 13-13 after one quarter, before Helias (5-2) took a 36-34 halftime lead.

The Crusaders led by as many as six points in the first half and stretched the lead to eight in the third quarter, before the Jays (4-5) closed within 50-46 entering the fourth.

Like your drunk uncle at the holiday party, the Jays would not go away.

"That's Jeff City against Helias right there, that didn't surprise me at all," Buffington said. "They weren't going to go away.

"(Jays coach) Blair (Thompson) does such a great job with those kids --- I've got a ton of respect for him and what he's doing with their program."

Thompson was not available for comment after the game.

The Jays took a 58-57 lead --- their first lead since 29-28 with 2:11 left in the first half --- when O.G. Anonoby scored on a drive with 3:26 left. That was part of a huge day by the 6-6 junior, who racked up 30 points and seven rebounds.

Earlier in the day, Anonoby won the Slam Dunk Contest.

"He is a matchup nightmare, because he's so long and extends the floor so well, Buffington said. "He's a special player."

The game was tied 60-60 at the end regulation and 64-64 after the first OT --- Helias had a chance to win it at the end of both ---- before the Jays took a 68-66 lead with 1:31 left in the second OT when Anonoby splashed home a 3-pointer.

But just 18 seconds later, Sykes was fouled on a 3-point attempt and made all three free throws. He then made one-of-two free throws with 44 seconds left to make it 70-68.

"He's having a great season," Buffington said of the 5-10 junior, who scored 25 points and was 10-of-11 from the line. "He had a few ups and downs early, but he's having a lot more ups than downs lately.

"He really, really played well for us tonight."

The Jays had the ball down the stretch and took two timeouts in the final 16 seconds, but failed to get off a good shot --- the last attempt was swatted away, with authority, at the buzzer by Hale Hentges, who had 13 points and a game-high nine rebounds.

Jake White added 16 points for the Jays, who will play Columbia-Battle for seventh place at 1:30 p.m. Sunday. Jefferson City will be looking to avoid its second straight 0-3 mark in the event.

For Helias, which will play Raytown South for fifth place at 3 p.m., Sam Husting canned four 3-balls and scored 12 points and Collin Caywood chipped in 11.

Is it possible to have anything left for another game, however, less than 24 hours after this one?

"I hope so," Buffington said. "This was such an emotional game, it's going to be hard to duplicate this effort, this rivalry and this intensity.

"Our guys just have to come ready to play and try to get two wins in this thing."

This one must have seemed like at least two wins.




It would be fair to say our local girls didn't fare too well in the second quarter against Blue Springs South this weekend.

The total score is now 35-2.

After blanking Helias 19-0 in the second quarter of Friday's opener of the State Farm Holiday Hoops Invitational, the Lady Jaguars did a number on Jefferson City --- 16-2 --- in Saturday's semfinals at Rackers Fieldhouse.

"Maybe we need to send them to the hospitality room during the second quarter, that might have helped us out a little bit," said Lady Jays coach Shane Meyer.

And consider this --- Helias lost by 19 after being outscored by 19 in the second quarter; the Lady Jays had a 14-point deficit and lost by only 12.

What happened?

"That's a great question," Meyer said. "We just stopped attacking. I think our kids got a little tired and tried to catch their breath a little bit on the offensive end, and it took it out of us attack mode."

The Lady Jays (4-5) trailed only 15-10 after one quarter, before the Lady Jaguars (6-2) belted them into deficits of 31-12 at the half and 39-19 after three quarters.

Jefferson City wasn't quite finished, as it used a 12-2 burst in the first 4 1/2 minutes of the fourth to pull within 41-31.

"We only gave up 13 points in the second half and that allowed us to chip away," Meyer said. "We went through some bad stretches on the offensive end, but when we were able to knock down some shots, we were able to build some momentum and put a little scare into them."

The biggest scare was provided by Megan Foster. After missing her first eight shots, the 5-9 sophomore made her last six --- including three 3-pointers --- to finish with 15 points and keep the Lady Jays in the conversation, although they would get no closer than 10.

"Megan got into attack mode and shot the ball with confidence when it came to her in rhythm on the outside," Meyer said.

Remy Davenport knocked home four 3-pointers and scored 16 points for the Lady Jaguars, who will face third-ranked Hickman (8-0) --- a 50-46 semifinal winner over St. Joseph Benton --- for the tournament title at 6 p.m. Sunday.

Kezia Martin had 13 points and nine rebounds for the Lady Jays, who will face Benton at 4:30 p.m. Sunday for third place.

If not for that second quarter, however, perhaps the Lady Jays would be playing in the event's final game.

"The second quarter ... should we have been winning at the half? No," Meyer said. "But we should have been a lot closer than we were."




Call this bouncing back with a bang.

After surrendering a 25-0 run to Blue Springs South in Friday's first-round loss, the Helias Lady Crusaders (5-2) ripped open a 46-20 halftime lead and coasted to a 32-point win over the winless Lady Spartans (0-5).

Freshman Ashley Rehagen tallied 17 points to lead a balanced attack for Helias, Darcy Baird scored 16 and Maitlyn Nienhueser added 15.

Helias will play Eureka (7-1) for fifth place at 3 p.m. Sunday, while Southeast will play Fatima for seventh place at 1:30 p.m.

Eureka received 25 points from freshman Sydney Holt, and outscored the Lady Comets 6-2 in the extra frame, to pull out the four-point win.

For the Lady Comets (4-3) --- who have lost their two tournament games by a combined seven points ---Morgan Brandt poured in 24 points, giving her 45 points in the event.