‘Keep fighting:’ Helena game-tying buzzer beater leads to overtime win over Calera

Published 2:08 pm Wednesday, January 9, 2019

By GRAHAM BROOKS / Staff Writer

HELENA – It’s only January, but the gym inside Helena High School had a postseason feel the night of Tuesday, Jan. 8 as Helena’s Caden Pierce drained a game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer at the end of regulation to propel the Huskies to a big 62-55 overtime win over Calera to open area play in an exciting way.

“I’ll tell you what, these guys have got fight,” Helena head coach Billy Grant said after the game. “They’ll fight and you’ve got to know that coach (Chris) Laatsch had a lot to do with it the way he groomed these guys through the years and I have to give him some credit too because they fight and that’s all you ask them to do. You’ll lose some games and not play well but just keep fighting.”

The never give up mentality was seen throughout the entire game for Helena who overcame an 11-point halftime deficit en route to the comeback win.

In addition to hitting the game-tying three, Pierce led the way for Helena finishing with 23 points including five 3-pointers.

The game didn’t start the way Helena wanted to, however, as Calera controlled the pace leading to frustration and plenty of fouls on the Huskies. Both Pierce and Daunte Cave found themselves in foul trouble in the first half as Calera’s Cornelious Brown led the Eagles with 13 first half points.

“We talk about playing at our pace and we let them draw us into that,” Grant said. “We got to play games in the 40s and the 50s, we don’t want to play up and down kind of games. But the foul trouble. When Caden and Daunte get fouls, and they both had two in the first half. Daunte got a third foul but it was about to get out of hand so I just had to roll the dice and leave him in but then he got that foul. We cut it to 11 and I said ‘If we just get some stops and make a couple of shots’ and that’s what happened. We just kind of slowed the pace down a little bit.”

The third quarter was the start of the comeback as the Huskies made five 3-pointers and outscored Calera 23-11 to take a 45-44 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

One of those players that stepped up big in the second half was Jonah Hyde who collected several big rebounds and finished in double figures with 10 points after going scoreless in the first half.

Despite losing the lead, Calera didn’t go away in the fourth quarter as the Eagles continued to draw fouls to get to the line. Brown was automatic at the free throw line going 6-for-6 in the fourth quarter as he finished as Calera’s leading scorer with 23 points.

On the flip side, Helena struggled at the free throw line finishing 12-for-22 and found themselves down 53-50 with just 15 seconds to go in the game.

After a timeout, Helena drew up a play to get Nate Andrews open in hopes of tying the game to send it to overtime.

“We ran the play for Nate because we figured they were going to try and take Caden away and he had a pretty good look,” Grant said. “But then Jonah had the presence to rebound it and turn and find Caden and have the instincts to catch it and Caden replaced himself and made a big shot.”

Pierce drained the corner 3-pointer at the buzzer to tie the game at 53 and carried the momentum into overtime.

In the overtime period, Pierce made an impressive layup, followed by another 3-pointer from the wing to give the Huskies a quick 58-53 lead.

Calera scored just two points in overtime and Andrews knocked down four free throws down the stretch to put the game away.

Helena is now 1-0 in area play and faces another huge test on Friday, Jan. 11 as the Huskies take on area rival Pelham at home.