Helena falters late in Sweet 16 loss to Paul Bryant

By GRAHAM BROOKS / Staff Writer

MONTGOMERY–Helena High School’s impressive basketball season has come to an end in Montgomery. The Huskies couldn’t hang onto an early lead and faltered late in a 56-42 loss to defending 6A state champion Paul Bryant in the Regional Semi Final on Thursday, Feb. 15.

Paul Bryant was led by Jared Sherfield who finished with 22 points to lead all scorers and Seth Williams who also finished in double-figures with 11 points.

Helena stunned Paul Bryant early by holding them scoreless in the first quarter of play but allowed the Stampede to hang around by committing several turnovers.

With a 9-0 lead entering the second quarter, momentum began to shift once Paul Bryant finally got on the scoreboard a minute into the second quarter.

The Stampede finally got going and put up 13 second quarter points compared to Helena’s five to fight back. Sherfield hit a deep 3-pointer and completed an and-1 to help cut Helena’s lead to 14-13 at the half.

“I thought in the first quarter when we got all those stops yet we still had eight turnovers… If we don’t turn the ball over we’ve got probably a double-digit lead so I thought that kind of hurt us,” Helena head coach Chris Laatsch said. “But, if you told me before the game we’d be up one going into the second half I would’ve taken it. Once we got down, they’re just impossible to play from behind because they spread you out, make you help and throw it up and dunk and you have to chase them and they’re made for that. Once we got down and had to chase that’s when it got away from us.”

Over the course of the final three quarters, Paul Bryant would outscore Helena 56-33 with most of the damage coming in the fourth quarter.

Daviyon Dennis gave the Stampede their first lead of the game at 20-18 with a 3-pointer with under four minutes to go in the third quarter. This would lead to two more 3-pointers to make it 26-22 Paul Bryant.

Down 28-22, Helena’s Daunte Cave hit a 3-pointer at the third quarter buzzer to pull the Huskies back to within three.

The fourth quarter is where things went south quickly for Helena. Down 36-30, Helena had trouble defending at the rim as Paul Bryant had three dunks and a layup on four straight possessions to extend their lead to 44-33 with under three minutes to go.

The Huskies couldn’t catch up playing from behind as Paul Bryant sealed the game with free throws to advance to the Elite Eight.

Helena’s four seniors left everything on the floor in their final game as they combined to score 32 of the Huskies 42 points. Justin Stuckey led the way with 17 points, Nate Andrews and Deven Tucker each had six points and Dionte Tolbert chipped in with three points.

Laatsch showed emotion after the game when talking about his four seniors.

“Today is not anything disappointing except that the journey is over,” Laatsch said. “Those four seniors have been with us since we’ve started it and we lost a lot along the way but those four have stuck it out. They’re unbelievable leaders and they’ve just left their heart and soul in this team. I can only think of one other team in my career that has been as tight as this team is and that’s a credit to their leadership. We’re going to miss those four.”

Helena finished the season with an overall record of 30-3. The Huskies won the Class 6A Region 8 championship and reached the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history.

Photos available at www.shelbycountyphotos.com