Slowly but surely, the Helena High girls pulled away Thursday night, eventually sending the team’s five seniors out with a win in their home finale, 56-41, over visiting Missoula Hellgate.
Helena led by four after the first quarter, 14-10, and the teams turned in matching performances in the second quarter as well. The only player scoring for the Knights in the second, though, was Sydney Riddle. She came in averaging just 7.5 points per game, but against the Bengals racked up a game-high 25.
“I’m proud of our seniors that we can leave this floor this year with a win for them,” coach Eric Peterson said. “I don’t know if giving up 25 to a player is great, but overall giving up 41 points is pretty good.
“Really, when our defense is good we get a lot of easy transition baskets, and that really gets us going in a flow. So we definitely like to amp it up on defense so we can get some easy offensive opportunities.”
Those opportunities came again in the third quarter, where once more Helena held the visitors to 10 points, setting the Bengals up for the victory.
Senior Kendra Kloker finished with a team-high 14 points on 5 of 8 shooting from the floor to lead Helena. Fellow senior Hailey Crawford also got into double digits, with 11, and senior Taelyr Krantz and Jessica Ellsworth added nine and eight, respectively.
“It is an emotional night. You could feel it when we subbed them out there at the end,” Peterson said. “They care about each other, they care about the program, they care about the legacy that they leave. It’s important to them, which is always a good thing, as a coach, to see.”
Helena moves to 16-3 overall and 9-2 in Western Conference play, and has already locked up the No. 2 spot. That means the regular-season finale at Big Sky on Saturday won’t impact the standings. But don’t expect HHS to let up.
“Nothing’s going to change for us,” Peterson said. “We’ve played pretty well the last two games and, really, further back -- against Sentinel we just couldn’t hit some shots. But we want to go in on a high note and make sure that everything’s clicking and not have any letdowns.”