Helena earns third place at Husky Holiday Shootout

Published 11:01 am Thursday, December 21, 2023

By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

HELENA – The Helena Huskies picked up a pair of wins at the Husky Holiday Shootout at Helena High School as they secured third place in their home tournament.

Helena received a bye to both the championship and consolation brackets of the tournament, which gave the Huskies two games on Tuesday, Dec. 19, first against Leeds in the consolation semifinals and the second against Tuscaloosa County in the championship semifinals.

In their showdown with the Leeds Green Wave, Helena got off to a quick start and didn’t let up for much of the game.

Playing without star guard Josh Williams, the Huskies went on a 13-3 run to start the game, holding Leeds to just one made shot from the field and getting five different scorers to chip in on offense.

That effort only continued in the second quarter as a pair of three-pointers from Nate Ferguson and a defense that held the Green Wave to just four points in eight minutes let Helena go up 23-9 at halftime.

The Huskies kept building on their lead after the break with 13 more points, including three’s from Ferguson and Ian Johnigan to increase their advantage by seven.

Now up 36-13 at the start of the fourth quarter, Helena cruised to a win from there. Leeds outscored the Huskies 15-11 in the final period, but thanks to a pair of three-pointers from Asa Wagoner, Helena saw out the 47-28 victory.

Ferguson led all scorers with 11 points, while Drew Davis and Johnigan had eight points each.

Later in the day against the Tuscaloosa County Wildcats, Helena led for the first three quarters but was unable to seal the deal in the fourth. The Wildcats outscored the Huskies 21-11 in the final eight minutes to take the lead and win 60-52 to advance to the finals.

Johnigan led the way with 18 points, and Denton McDonald also got into double-figures with 12 points.

Helena had a chance for redemption in the third-place game against the Hartselle Tigers on Wednesday, Dec. 20, and they took advantage of that to earn a bounce-back win.

Much of the reason why the Huskies walked away with the victory was their fast start. They dropped 25 points in the first quarter, with Johnigan scoring 11 and Davis adding 10.

With Helena up 13 at the end of the first, Hartselle responded by trimming the lead by two before halftime. The Huskies scored just 10 points in the second quarter but walked into the halftime locker room with a 35-24 lead.

The Tigers surged back in the third quarter and set the teams up for a fight down the stretch. Hartselle outscored Helena 19-10, but the Huskies hit eight free throws to keep pace and maintain a lead going into the fourth.

Up 45-43 at the start of the final period, the Huskies battled throughout the fourth quarter with the Tigers as the game remained close. Johnigan scored seven more points in the final period and Davis had five points to keep Helena on top.

Hartselle trailed by just three when the Huskies called a timeout with 20.3 seconds left, but it was Helena’s stout defense and a late free throw that iced the game and gave it the 62-58 win.

Johnigan sealed his spot on the All-Tournament team with a 26-point performance. Davis had 17 points and Joseph King added 10 to give Helena three players in double-figures.