Helena girls ready for new season after last year’s Elite Eight appearance

Published 12:13 pm Friday, November 4, 2022

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By LAUREN SEXTON | Sports Reporter

HELENA – Flashback to last season’s Elite Eight game for the Helena Huskies against rival Pelham, and the Huskies’ final loss of the 2021-22 season. Flash forward to today, and the 2022-23 season, and the Huskies are ready to go all the way.

“Coming off of last season [our goal] is to keep our focus on what we’ve proven…we can do,” Helena head coach Ben Dudek said. “Keep our minds on the things that it takes to accomplish that because I know we went on a run to the playoffs,” and this year, they want to break through that glass ceiling.”

Team chemistry is a major factor in any team’s performance in a season and the Helena Huskies expressed gratitude for that culture on and off the court.

“I feel like if we had a bad relationship off the court it would show on the court, ” Sophia Merchant said. “I am really thankful to have a team that is friends because it would be a lot harder to get anything done if we didn’t work together as a team.”

Preseason has been described by Dudek as a major asset for the team, and their preparedness is being set in motion for the upcoming season.  Their goal is to return to the state-level competition in 2023.

“We were a lot more aggressive this year in our preseason strength and conditioning,” Skinner said. “I didn’t feel like at the beginning of the year last year that we were where we needed to be…We were a little more aggressive this year with it. Heavy on the weights, running a lot,  just trying to get that part because I tell them all the time that nobody enjoys strength and conditioning preseason stuff. Just getting that part and the grind of it and being able to embrace that early on and should pay off when the season gets here. Because when the season gets here,  all those little things that go into a season are something that we’ve really tried to focus on so far.”

Focusing on the game and the goal has become a mantra for many players on the Helena team like senior Olivia Johnigan.

“I would say the mantra is simply trying to go farther when trying to change that next big thing,” Johnigan said. “We’ve been really focused coming off last year. I also think that we need to start off the season better than we did last year. I feel we started off a lot faster this year and it can help us in the long run. We’re going to face a lot of pressure this year, and we’re going to handle that.”

Johningan was named one of the 2021-2022 All-County girls basketball players. In the 2021-22 season, she averaged 12.5 points per game and was one of the leading rebounders in the county as well with 7.1 rebounds per game. In addition, she had a29 steals and 34 blocks

Helena will take on non-region rival Calera on Thursday, Nov. 10 at home.