Helena tops Calera in OT thriller to open area play

Published 11:21 pm Tuesday, January 11, 2022

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By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

CALERA – Trailing 77-74 on the road against Calera to open area play on Tuesday, Jan. 11, the Helena Huskies knew exactly what they wanted to do—get the ball in the hands of either Ian Johnigan or Josh Williams.

Johnigan, who was the hot hand in the second half, wound up with the ball and attempted a game-tying 3-pointer with 1.7 seconds that didn’t drop, but contact on the shot sent the sophomore guard to the line needing all three free throws to force overtime.

He stepped up and didn’t blink, sinking each one to tie the game.

Early in the extra period, Helena gained a three-point advantage before back-to-back turnovers gave Calera the lead right back.

Shortly after, however, the game-winning sequence occurred with two offensive rebounds in a row for the Huskies.

Trailing by one, the first came from Ethan Acosta on an offensive put back. Then, after Calera had an empty trip up the floor, Charlie Marshall went to the line late in the overtime period.

He hit his first free throw, and after missing his second, got his own miss, eventually kicking the ball over to Johnigan who was fouled and sent back to the line.

Johnigan sank both, and that put an end to an 89-85 win for Helena to open area play.

Johnigan finished his night with 27 points, scoring all but three of those in the second half or overtime. Just behind him was Williams, who was hot throughout the win, posting 25 points, including eight in the fourth quarter to help will the Huskies back into the game.

The two sophomores combined for 23 of Helena’s 27 points in the final quarter with Johnigan totaling 15 in the period alone.

The back-and-forth battle kicked off with a fast-paced first half that saw neither team lead by more than single digits in the opening two quarters.

Calera, however, was able to gain the largest lead of the first half. Xzayvion Childress and Gavin Blankenship were a big reasons why early, hitting three combined 3-pointers to open the game for the Eagles.

The huskies battled to a 12-9 deficit through the first two minutes, but Calera then went on an 11-5 run to jump up by nine points following a Joe Wimberly and-1 and a Childress jumper.

Helena, however, answered with two big 3-pointers to close the opening quarter, as Williams in particular caught fire early in the game.

That closed the gap to 23-20 going to the second quarter.

The Huskies capitalized on that momentum swing and carried the run into the second quarter. They started the second quarter on an 8-0 run, extending the run from the opening quarter to 14-0 to take a 28-23 lead.

Williams was big in that stretch as well, scoring five in a row at one point and totaling 15 points in the half.

Calera, however, bounced back with a 4-0 run to get back within one as the Huskies’ offense lost its luster the rest of the quarter.

The Eagles took advantage, eventually tying the game at 34-34, then, with 4.7 seconds left, they inbounded under the Helena basket looking to go the length of the court to take the lead.

Wimberly did just that by sprinting up the floor and letting a floater fly from the free throw line. Not only did he burry it, but he drew a foul and sank the free throw to give Calera a 37-34 lead at the half.

And just like Helena capitalized on the momentum at the end of the first quarter, the Eagles capitalized to start the third quarter, not letting the halftime break interrupt their rhythm.

Calera started the second half on an 11-3 lead, extending the run from the first half to 17-3.

That put the Eagles in front by 11 at one point for their largest lead of the game.

As was the case with most runs in the game, however, the Huskies bounced back.

Trailing 48-37, Helena followed an 11-3 run from the Eagles with a 13-6 run to cut the deficit to as little as four points before Calera got an and-1 from Childress to end the period and take a 57-50 lead to the final quarter.

But Helena had seen another shift in the momentum, and the Huskies capitalized.

Williams drained back-to-back 3-pointers to start the final quarter, and while Childress responded with an and-1, Johnigan then caught fire, sinking two threes and two free throws on the next three Helena possessions to give the Huskies a 64-62 lead.

That started another back-and-forth stretch, but eventually Helena went up by five points for its largest lead following two more free throws from Johnigan and a layup from Jordan Washington.

But with the pressure on, Calera responded at home.

The Eagles got another big shot from Childress on a 3-pointer with 1:40 to play.

Then, back-to-back Helena turnovers gave Calera the lead after Wimberly hit another clutch floater with 21.9 seconds left. Up 76-74, he hit one of two at the line 14 seconds later to make it 77-74.

That’s when Johnigan capped off his 15-point quarter with three free throws, finishing a perfect 9-9 from the line to force overtime.

He then went 2-2 in the extra period and totaled four more points, while six different Helena players scored in overtime to cement the four-point win.

Johnigan finished 12-12 from the free throw line in the game, while the Huskies made 26 of their 33 from the line as a team.

Acosta and Washington each finished with 10 points in the victory as well.

Calera fell to 0-1 in area play, but the Eagles showed their potential with five area matchups still left.

Childress led all scorers in the game with 38 points, while Wimberly added 18, including clutch shots to end the first half and late in overtime.