Helena completes comeback over Pelham, advances to area tournament championship

Published 11:39 pm Wednesday, February 6, 2019

By GRAHAM BROOKS / Staff Writer

HELENA – It’s a difficult task to defeat a team three times in one season, especially when that team happens to be one of your biggest rivals, but on Wednesday, Feb. 6, Helena did just that by overcoming a double-digit halftime deficit to defeat Pelham 40-37 to keep its season alive.

Helena looked out of sync and frustrated offensively for the first two quarters as Pelham limited the Huskies to just 12 first half points.

It’s been a tough season for Pelham, as they entered the game as the No. 4 seed in the Class 6A Area 8 tournament but the postseason is where teams get a fresh start, as the Panthers were gunning to take down No. 1 seed Helena.

For the better part of three quarters, Pelham was up for the challenge and looking for the upset as its defense helped create opportunities at the other end of the floor with players like Blake Floyd, Chris Brown and Jacob Shumate. Floyd finished with 11 points for the Panthers, while Brown added 10 and Shumate finished with seven.

Pelham ended the first half on a 7-1 run to take a 22-12 halftime lead while limiting Helena to just one made 3-pointer.

However, playing from behind is nothing new for Helena as the Huskies have completed multiple comebacks this season. The only difference on Feb. 6, was Helena had to do it if it wanted to extend its season and earn a spot in the sub-regional round.

The Huskies outscored Pelham 13-6 in the third quarter, which was more points than it scored the entire first half as LaDarrius Rice stepped up and knocked down two big 3-pointers in the quarter that helped cut the Pelham lead to 28-25 heading into the fourth quarter.

After trailing for three-and-a-half quarters, Helena finally took its first lead of the game as a Caden Pierce 3-pointer from the top of the key put the Huskies ahead 30-28 with four minutes to play.

A few minutes later, with the game tied at 32, Helena’s Matthew Hobbick hit arguably the biggest shot of the game as he drained a 3-pointer from the wing to put the Huskies up 35-32 with 1:46 left in the game. It was Hobbick’s only made shot of the game but it was a critical part of Helena’s comeback effort.

Down the stretch, Helena’s Daunte Cave was clutch at the free throw line. With the Huskies up 35-34 with 1:07 to play, Cave went to the foul line facing a 1-and-1 where he calmly sank both free throws.

On Pelham’s next offensive possession, the Panthers turned the ball over forcing them to foul Helena with 50 seconds to play. Cave was faced with another 1-and-1 situation where he converted both free throws to extend Helena’s lead to 39-34.

Pelham’s last chance to try and send the game to overtime came with 2.8 seconds to play with the Panthers trailing 40-37.

The Panthers inbounded the ball to Brown who took two dribbles and heaved up a shot from half court but the ball went wide left as Helena escaped with the hard-fought victory and ended Pelham’s season.

Helena outscored Pelham 28-15 in the second half as Pierce finished as the leading scorer with 14 points and Cave finished with nine points.

After the game, Helena head coach Billy Grant said guys stepped up at the right time in the comeback win.

“Those guys always fight back and they’ve been fighting back the last couple weeks even in the games we’ve lost,” Grant said. “I don’t know, we were just so bad on offense in the first half and had some open shots and missed layups and a bunch of free throws. What we did was play defense a lot better only giving up 15 points in the second half. We had LaDarrius Rice and Matthew Hobbick make big shots, three threes and we needed somebody else to make plays beside Nate, Daunte and Caden and they stepped up for us. We got in a rhythm on defense and fought back.”

Helena will now take on Calera on Friday, Feb. 8 in the Class 6A Area 8 championship game at 7 p.m. at Helena High School.

The Huskies also locked up a spot in the sub-regional round with the win over Pelham.