By Kyle Smith
Democrat Sports Editor
Helias girls basketball is a team known for playing man-to-man defense.
That wasn’t the case Friday night at Smith-Cotton High School. The Lady Crusaders used a zone defense, and they beat Smith-Cotton 23-15 in a nonconference matchup.
“We were prepared for it,” Smith-Cotton acting coach Bill Barton said of the zone. “We just couldn’t hit the shots.”
Barton was coaching the team because head coach Zach Vandevender is out with a severe case of the flu.
Helias collapsed on S-C 6-footer Abby Knight all night, giving her few open looks at the basket and daring the Lady Tigers to shoot from the perimeter.
“We couldn’t hit our outside shots,” Barton said, “and they had us scouted. We struggle from the outside and most people know that.”
The Lady Tigers made only two 3-pointers — both by Jessica Coble in the third quarter. Meanwhile, Knight was held to seven points. She could have had more but she went only 3 for 6 from the foul line.
S-C’s defense played well and trailed only 6-4 after one quarter, 10-4 at halftime and 18-13 after three.
After going scoreless in the second quarter, the Lady Tigers scored first in the third on a Coble 3-pointer.
Helias (7-2) scored the next six points to expand its lead to nine. Maitlyn Nienhueser, who totalled a game-high eight points, and Molly Light each made two free throws, and Darcy Baird scored on a putback following a fast break.
A late 3-pointer by Coble cut Helias’ lead to five by the start of the final quarter.
The Lady Tigers didn’t score again until the 1:19 mark on two free throws by Knight. Meanwhile, a 3-pointer and two free throws by Meghan Nappier finished off S-C.
“They’re a pretty good ballclub, but they didn’t blow us out,” Barton said. “If we could have scored a little from outside, it could have been a little closer. We played hard. We gave it all we had. That’s about all you can expect.”
The Lady Tigers (4-6) are scheduled to host Clinton in a West Central Conference varsity-only matchup at 5:30 p.m. Monday at Smith-Cotton High School. The varsity boys teams are set to meet at 7 p.m. The games were originally scheduled for Dec. 13 but were postponed because of the weather.