Huskies fast start leads to big area win over rival Pelham

By GRAHAM BROOKS / Staff Writer

PELHAM–When the Helena Huskies and Pelham Panthers get together, you can always expect a raucous atmosphere as the stakes are usually high when the two rivals step on the court.

On Tuesday, Jan. 9, this was to be expected at Pelham High School but an unbelievably fast start by Helena took the buzz out of the building early as Helena picked up an impressive 66-43 win to get an early leg up in the Class 6A Area 8 standings.

Helena raced out to a 17-0 lead and never looked back. Huskies senior guard Justin Stuckey was on fire to open the game, draining four 3-pointers to score 14 of his 24 points in the first eight minutes. Helena’s Austin Laatsch also had a 3-pointer and Devin Tucker added four points down low as Helena took a 25-6 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Helena’s full-court pressure bothered the Panthers as Pelham’s first basket of the game didn’t come until the 3:40 mark in the first quarter after a Chris Brown made jumper. Leading scorer Justin Allison didn’t record a point in the first quarter but would finish as the leading scorer for the Panthers with 19 points.

Helena head coach Chris Laatsch said the fast start was a result of his team wanting to play more aggressive from the opening tip.

“We decided to come out and be a little more aggressive with our press off the bat and see if we could generate some easy baskets early and we were fortunately able to do that,” Laatsch said. “Didn’t expect it to be that big but our kids had great energy and we executed our press really well and turned them over some.”

Helena cooled off somewhat offensively as its lowest point total came in the second quarter with 10 points but the Huskies defense still created problems for Pelham to take a 35-20 halftime lead.

In the second half, Helena got things done at the foul line as they made 21-of-24 attempts to finish 88 percent for the game to put it away. Stuckey went a perfect 6-for-6 from the foul line in the fourth quarter to cap off an impressive game as Laatsch praised his senior leader.

“He made a lot of big shots early and got us going,” Laatsch said. “He was just a great leader and when we needed a bucket, he went and got it. When we needed a rebound, he went and got it. That’s what your guys got to do and I thought he established himself as that tonight.”

Fellow senior point guard Dionte Tolbert finished with nine points and Austin Laatsch continues to develop as an outside scoring threat making three 3-pointers to finish with nine points for the Huskies.

With the win, Helena improved to 19-2 on the season and 1-0 in area play. The two teams will meet again at Helena on Friday, Jan. 19.

Photos available at Shelbycountyphotos.com.