HELENA — Early-season success continues to come the Helena High girls basketball team's way.
The Bengals cruised to a 57-34 victory in a AA nonconference home game Thursday night over CMR to remain undefeated.
It was an opportunity for Helena (3-0) to showcase an efficient offense and stifling defense. CMR (1-2), however, was hampered by turnovers with 13 of 22 in the first half.
"We won by 23 points, but I thought we could have played better. We left a lot of points on the floor," Helena coach Eric Peterson said. "We didn't turn the ball over much this game, which was our issue the first couple games."
Helena standout Jamie Pickens turned in another strong outing with 18 points and 14 rebounds. She gladly shared the ball as eight Bengals scored, and the entire roster was used.
When Helena needed a basket to regain momentum she was aggressive under the hoop or stepped back for a 3-pointer.
"They made some shots, credit to them," CMR coach Brian Crosby said. "We tried to play zone and take away Jamie, but we didn't do a good enough job. When you have a player like Jamie, you are limited in what you can do offensively. It turns you into a perimeter team."
Crosby tried to install an uncharacteristic 2-3 zone defense for this game. He hoped it was enough to confuse the Bengals.
The Bengals led from start to finish with a 32-17 lead at halftime. They kept the Rustlers to less than 10 points each quarter.
CMR's top scorer was Addison Gardner with nine points, followed by Kyra Willis with eight and Breanna Johns with seven.
"We executed really well and moved the ball," Pickens said. "We could have played better defense at the end of the game."
Helena's goal is to push the ball and use pressure defense. That approach overwhelmed CMR early. The tempo forced mistakes.
Abby Marcille was a steady offensive force with 11 points and five rebounds for Helena. Paige Aasved added eight, while Vanessa Walsh and Kamden Hilborn had six each. Hilborn also led her team with six assists.
"We work on that," Helena's McKayla Kloker said of the aggressive play. "We want to play defense and turn that into offense."
Helena, last season's AA champions, started the season strong with wins over Butte, Bozeman and now CMR. Players have an expectation to keep the early momentum going.
They are also cautious to not peak early or at midseason in their quests to repeat as state champions.
Peterson sees many areas to fine-tune, so he expects to keep his team engaged in practice. He can point out the team was 0-for-5 from the free-throw line.
"There's a lot of room for growth," Kloker said. "We are undefeated and we want to keep it that way. We expect to do well."
Helena 57, CMR 34
CMR 9 8 9 8 – 34
Helena 19 13 18 7 – 57
CMR: Addison Gardner 9, Kyra Willis 8, Breanna Johns 7, Brynn Klinefelter 6, Kylie Allen 4.
H: Jamie Pickens 18, Abby Marcille 11, Paige Aasved 8, Vanessa Walsh 6, Kamden Hilborn 6, Maddie Mariegard 3, Payton Aasved 3, McKayla Kloker 2.