Helena tops Chelsea, continues strong stretch of play

Published 8:59 am Thursday, January 5, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

HELENA – In a game featuring two of the hottest teams in Shelby County over the holiday break, the Helena Huskies took down county rival Chelsea on Wednesday, Jan. 4 in a game that was delayed a day due to weather.

The delay, however, didn’t prevent an action-packed night as the two battled back and forth throughout, but it was ultimately the Huskies that protected their home court in a tight 59-51 victory.

Helena led by no more than four points at the end of every quarter, which gave Chelsea a chance heading to the fourth in a 40-36 game, but the Huskies hit nine of their 13 free throws down the stretch to prevent a comeback by the Hornets.

The win came on the heels of a strong month of play that saw Helena seven of eight heading into the matchup against Chelsea, including a run to the Big Orange Classic Championship at Hoover where the Huskies eventually fell to the tourney host.

It also marked a revenge game for the Huskies, who fell to Chelsea 57-37 back on Dec. 6 in a road game.

This time around, however, it was clear the game was going to be tighter from the start, while Chelsea was also down leading scorer Paul Lanzi.

Josh Williams was a big reason for that in the opening quarter.

The Helena guard had 15 points on the night and 11 of those 15 came in the first period. He drained three shots from beyond the arc and hit another jumper to score 11 of the Huskies’ 13 points in the frame.

Chelsea took a more balanced approach, and while they couldn’t match Helena’s total, they got a combined 11 points in the quarter to create a tight battle going to the second.

That’s when the thrilling battle really kicked off.

The team teams traded blows in the second quarter, which led to an exciting back-and-forth eight minutes of action.

Helena got 17 points, including three or more from four different players, while the Hornets caught fire from beyond the arc with four made 3-pointers, including two from Avery Futch, to total 16 points.

Despite Futch scoring eight points in the quarter for the Hornets, Helena was still able to add to the lead by one point going into the half, as the Huskies led 30-27.

The third quarter wasn’t as action packed, but it featured just as thrilling of a matchup as Helena once again outscored Chelsea by one point in a more defensive period.

The Huskies got two key 3-pointers from Ian Johnigan as part of a 10-point quarter, while Chelsea got five more from Futch to post nine points as a team.

Still, Helena added to its lead by one point again to take a 40-36 advantage into the final period.

In the final quarter, Chelsea had its chances to cut into the deficit, but the Huskies used the perfect balance of made shots and free throws to fend off a comeback.

The Hornets knocked down 12 of 17 free throws in the quarter to give it their best shots, but they only made one 3-pointer outside of that to total 15 points.

Helena, however, not only knocked down nine free throws, but the Huskies also two 3-pointers and two field goals each from Johnigan and Owen Davis to help total 19 points and their best frame of the night.

Helena got 16 points from Johnigan in the victory thanks to four made 3-pointers and two additional baskets, while Williams and Davis each totaled 15 points. Christian Wright and Torrey Ward were also important with Wright making four of five from the free throw line in the final quarter to finish with eight points and Ward making three of four free throws in the final quarter to total all of his points.

Chelsea was led by 15 points from Futch, while Gavin Collett scored eight in the final quarter and finished with 13.