Helena notches huge area win against Chelsea

By GRAHAM BROOKS / Staff Writer

CHELSEA–Clinging to a 43-40 lead with 3.9 seconds remaining, Helena needed one final stop to grab a huge area win on the road against Chelsea to stay alive in the Class 6A Area 8 standings and they did just that.

One final 3-point heave from the corner from Chelsea’s Joseph Lanzi to send the game to overtime fell short and the Huskies celebrated a dramatic victory to capture their 20th win of the season and even their record in area play at 1-1.

In the first quarter of play the Helena offense could be summed up in two words: Justin Stuckey.

The junior guard was hot early as he drove the ball to the basket and connected on two 3-pointers to account for 14 of the Huskies 16 first-quarter points.

As it turns out, the Huskies would need the 16-7 first-quarter cushion as Chelsea would dominate the second quarter of play.

“We were struggling scoring and they did a great job taking our stuff away and he (Stuckey) stepped up and made some big shots that were contested because they just defended so well,” Helena head coach Chris Laatsch said of Stuckey’s first quarter scoring. “Then they went off and shut our offense down but I was real proud of him because he gave us a little bit of a cushion and thank goodness he did.”

Trailing by nine points, the Hornets opened the second quarter with a 10-0 run as both Lanzi and Sid Ridgway hit 3-pointers and Helena couldn’t buy a basket as Chelsea regained the lead 17-16.

The Huskies could muster just five points in the second quarter as Chelsea went on an 18-5 run to head into halftime leading 25-21.

Like any good team, a true team’s toughness will show in the face of adversity and Helena came out in the second half and proved they weren’t going away.

The third quarter was a see-saw battle as midway through the quarter Stuckey grabbed a steal and scored a layup at the other end to regain the lead for the Huskies 29-27.

As the third quarter buzzer sounded, Helena held a 32-31 lead with just eight minutes to play.

A big difference in the game came down to free throws and simply put, Helena made the most of its opportunities at the foul line.

In the game, Helena finished 9-13 from the foul line while Chelsea converted just 9-16. The majority of the Huskies attempts came in the final quarter as Helena converted 7-8 free throws that ultimately helped preserve the victory.

Through three quarters, Helena’s leading scorer Jon Brown was struggling on the offensive end with just four points, but the senior showed why he’s a team leader in the final quarter.

Brown made a nifty move on the baseline for a dunk and recorded eight points in the final quarter while going 4-4 from the foul line.

Helena held a 42-37 lead with under a minute to play as Lanzi came off a double screen to drain a big 3-pointer to cut Helena’s lead to 42-40.

The Hornets fouled Stuckey on the next possession as he converted 1-2 free throws to extend Helena’s lead to 43-40.

Helena’s defense had one final stand to hold on for the 43-40 win. Stuckey led the Huskies with 22 points while Brown added 12 points.

“I thought Jon’s toughness and his competitiveness allowed the rest of our guys to follow him,” Laatsch said of Brown’s play in the fourth quarter. “This was a big game for them in our first area game on the road for most of our kids and I thought his mentality in the fourth quarter was the difference. I thought it calmed our kids and then he made some unbelievable plays to finish it out.”

Helena’s overall record stands at 20-5 and the win now sets up a monster No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown with Pelham on Friday, Jan. 20.