Big fourth quarter lifts Helena to win over Chelsea in area tournament semis

By GRAHAM BROOKS / Staff Writer

PELHAM–Coming into the semifinals of the Class 6A Area 8 tournament, Helena had defeated Chelsea twice in the regular season, but on Thursday, Feb. 9, those wins would’ve seemed meaningless if the Huskies were to lose when it mattered most.

For the better part of three quarters, the Chelsea Hornets gave Helena all they wanted and held a two point lead going into the final eight minutes.

However, the final quarter belonged to Helena as the Huskies opened the fourth quarter on a 10-0 run and never looked back to defeat Chelsea 63-55 in a win or go home scenario.

The game started with trading of baskets by both teams but it was Chelsea that connected from beyond the arc as Joseph Lanzi and Sam Towery both hit a pair of 3-pointers to help give the Hornets a 17-15 first quarter lead.

Lanzi, a senior guard who can score from anywhere on the floor, played like it was his last game and he led the Hornets offensively finishing with 11 first half points and 26 points in the game to lead all scorers.

The second and third quarters went much like the first eight minutes as both teams made runs but it was Chelsea who continued to keep a slim lead and had upset on their mind leading 42-40 at the end of the third quarter.

Helena opened the fourth quarter with a bang as Helena head coach Chris Laatsch discussed the play that was drawn up to give the Huskies the lead.

“We knew coach Baumbaugh would have them prepared,” Laatsch said. “We started the fourth quarter down two and ran a play that we ran against them before. They saw it coming and they were ready to defend it, so we put in a little counter. We ran the counter and Dionte Tolbert hit the three and put us up.”

Leading 43-42 early in the fourth quarter, Helena got two big baskets from junior guard Justin Stuckey as Stuckey drained a 3-pointer and layup. Colton Hood also made a clutch layup to cap off the 10-0 run that gave Helena a 50-42 lead.

Chelsea fought back to make it a 52-48 game with 2:55 remaining but Huskies senior Jon Brown hit a clutch layup and-1 to put Helena up 57-50 to essentially ice the game late.

Helena was led by the trio of Stuckey, Tolbert and Brown as Brown finished with 23 points and Stuckey and Tolbert both finished with 14 points.

“I thought our kids showed a lot of poise and we knew it was going to be a 32 minute game,” Laatsch said after the game.

With the win, Helena ended Chelsea’s season and the Huskies will move on to face Pelham in the Class 6A Area 8 tournament championship at Pelham High School on Saturday, Feb. 11 at 3 p.m.