Chelsea girls handle Helena to keep season alive

Published 10:36 pm Tuesday, February 5, 2019

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

CHELSEA – Chelsea’s girls basketball team has been defined by effort and out-working the opponent this season, so it was only fitting that despite being down one of their leaders, the team work together to earn a berth in the sub-regional round of the playoffs after taking down the Helena Huskies 54-33 in the first round of the Class 6A Area 8 tournament at home on Tuesday, Feb. 5.

The Hornets not only played well, but did so with their season on the line to also earn a spot in the area tournament championship, while the Huskies’ season came to an end.   

Chelsea’s game plan early was to feed Mackenzie Titus offensively, with Jordan Parker out due to a right ankle injury, and try and set up the full-court press defensively to force easy baskets.

In the opening period, not everything went quite according to plan.

Helena came out and was handling the pressure of the game well in the opening minutes and knocked down four field goals in the first quarter, including two 3-pointers, to total 10 points.

While that doesn’t seem like a tall task, the Hornets have proven that scoring double digits in a quarter against them this season has been tough.

Offensively, Chelsea was in a tough situation without Parker, who is arguably the team’s best defender and scorer.

Titus tried to do what she could in the opening quarter to make up for that missing production and put up five points on one field goal and 3-4 shooting from the free throw line.

Her five points, however, made up the majority of the Hornets’ scoring in the quarter as only three more points were added putting them in a 10-8 deficit heading to the second.

The deficit was short lived, however, as Chelsea came out with a different intensity in the second quarter.

The Hornets quickly tied the game at 10-10 before their defense became key. Helena turned the ball over on four consecutive possessions following Chelsea tying the game.

Somehow, the Huskies were still able to grab the lead back at 14-13 shortly after, but that led to a new effort from the Hornets.

Chelsea has been known as an aggressive defensive team that tries to make you beat them with the dribble this year, and while Helena was finding ways around it in the opening quarter, that wasn’t the case in the second.

The Huskies couldn’t find any open space to operate with offensively, while the Hornets were starting to heat up.

Thanks in large part to Titus putting forth everything she had in the quarter, Chelsea posted 15 points with 12 of those 15 coming from her off two 3-pointers and three field goals.

All of those made baskets by her allowed a strong core of defenders to set up the full-court press, which Helena couldn’t handle in the period.

The Huskies kept pace up to their 16-15 lead, but the Hornets closed the quarter out on an 8-2 run from that point to take a 23-18 advantage into the half.

Chelsea took that momentum into the halftime break and brought it out on the other side of the break thanks to impressive play from just about everybody on the floor.

The defense continued making life difficult for the Huskies, while Ellen Fleming, Sidney Ridgeway and Pressley Rains all played well offensively, specifically thanks to forced turnovers that led to easy baskets.

Ridgeway ended up with two layups, including an offensive put back, while Rains and Fleming each had easy shots at the basket as well to help the Hornets outscore the Huskies 9-4 in the quarter and take a 32-22 lead into the final quarter.

As if that hole wasn’t deep enough, Chelsea came out and got a 3-pointer from Fleming and a deep jumper from Rains to start the final period, which allowed the Hornets to extend the lead to 15 points very quickly.

That was only the beginning, as the Hornets went on to dominate the final quarter as they had the previous two eventually grabbing a 20-point lead at 46-26 with 2:50 left to play.

From that point on, Helena never got closer than 18 points, as the Hornets pulled away for the 54-33 victory in large part thanks to a 6-7 mark from Sydney Schwallie at the free throw line down the stretch.

Schwallie ended the game with 10 points as did Rains, while Titus led the way with 17 points.

The all-tournament team featured Parker, Schwallie and Rains from Chelsea, while Julia Hensley and Autumn Edmonds made it from Helena.