Helena wins regular season area title after pulling away late against Pelham

Published 12:16 am Wednesday, January 24, 2024

By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

HELENA – The Helena Huskies have officially booked their place in sub-regionals after wrapping up the one seed in the area tournament with a 66-49 win over the rival Pelham Panthers on Tuesday, Jan. 23 at Helena High School.

To do so, however, the Huskies had to hold off multiple comeback bids from a determined Panthers team, and they took care of business in the fourth quarter to improve to 3-0 in the area.

Helena came flying out of the gate as Josh Williams scored the first five points of the game and the Huskies went on a 10-0 run to begin the contest.

However, in the back half of the first quarter, Pelham fought back. Led by seven points from Dynarian Long, the Panthers cut Helena’s lead to 19-14 at the end of the period.

Pelham continued to climb back in the second quarter and tied up the game at 23 with four minutes left in the half.

Just like how the Panthers took control in the last four minutes of the first, though, the pendulum swung back in the Huskies favor.

Williams scored five points in the second quarter to take him into double-figures for the half and helped give the Huskies a 31-25 lead going into halftime.

Helena’s momentum only snowballed to open the third quarter and led to another dominant run.

After a fairly even first two minutes of the third, the Huskies went on an 11-0 run to take a 15-point lead with less than four minutes left in the quarter, partially thanks to Drew Davis’ dominant 10-point quarter.

Pelham chipped away at the deficit in the remaining minutes of the quarter and went into the fourth quarter down by 11 points.

That quickly narrowed even more as the Panthers refused to go down without a fight. Pelham trimmed the deficit to nine in the opening moments of the fourth as Joe Wimberly and Sam Tolbert spearheaded the attack in the final eight minutes.

Helena responded to the Panthers’ pressure and took advantage of its opportunities on offense to close out the game.

Torrey Ward and Ian Johnigan ignited the crowd with a pair of and-one’s as part of their four-point fourth quarters, but it was Williams who sent the Huskies fans home happy with a basket with 33 seconds left followed by an emphatic dunk on the final play of the game.

That slam put the finishing touches on a 15-point win for the Huskies, a spot in the state playoffs and hosting rights for the area tournament.

Williams led Helena with 18 points while Johnigan and Davis added 15 points apiece after each of them dominated stretches of the game. In addition, Joseph King scored nine points and Ward had six points.

As for Pelham, Tolbert and Jordan Hershel tied for the team-high with 12 points each. Wimberly scored 11 points and Long had 10 points to put four Panthers players in double-figures.

Helena and Pelham won’t have to wait long to square off again as the two rivals will face each other on Friday, Jan. 26 at 7 p.m. at Pelham High School.