HELENA -- Call it a cliche, but basketball once again proved to be a tale of two halves on Friday evening.
Helena Capital overcame a 15-point deficit to rally past rival Helena High, 56-46, scoring 23 points in the fourth quarter to secure the Western AA boys basketball win.
The Bengals wasted little time riding the momentum of the home crowd, with Kaden Huot hitting a pair of 3-pointers from the right wing, as Helena High built a 13-4 lead after the first quarter and extended it to 17-6 on Huot's second triple. Hayden Ferguson's floater in the lane pushed the Bengals to a 25-10 advantage with 3:33 to play in the opening half.
"That was a brutal first half. We really were struggling. We just lost confidence," said Capital coach Guy Almquist. "We missed a few shots that I thought were pretty make-able for us early, then we started to turn down a few, second-guessing ourselves a little bit. On the other side, (Helena High) was playing with great confidence."
Capital ended the half on an 11-4 run, thanks to pressure defense from guard Ryan Quinn and key baskets from senior guard Parker Johnston. Johnston made a short jumper, followed by a pull-up from Malachi Syvrud to cut the lead to 27-17. Quinn calmly sank a pair of free throws before the half expired to send the teams to the locker room at 29-21 Helena High.
"We were playing zone in the first half, and that, I think, helped them a little bit," said Capital senior Trevor Swanson. "Once they started getting ahead we decided to man up, and our point guard, especially Ryan Quinn, did an excellent job putting pressure on them and getting steals. We ended up getting stops and making our own plays."
"I thought the last two minutes of the first half were very crucial," agreed Almquist. "I thought Ryan Quinn gave us some great pressure on ball, made a few plays, and even though we were down eight, I thought we had the momentum going into the second half."
It indeed carried over, with the Bruins sparking a 12-2 run to open the third, which included a key Swanson 3-point play and Brayden Koch corner 3. After a Swanson steal, Bridger Grovom found his fellow senior in front of the Capital bench, where Swanson's second triple gave Capital its first lead of the game, 33-31.
"It was really good. I was in the corner of the court near our bench and all I could hear was Almquist telling me to shoot it if you're open, have confidence in yourself. That's exactly what I did," Swanson said. "He and all the teammates helped motivate me and we all helped each other get this win."
"That's how Trevor can get. When he sees it go in, he starts ringing the bell quick. That was good. We needed him," said Almquist. "Some of those 3-pointers were in transition. When we started playing better defense so they were taking tough shots, we got in transition, attacking, kicking and getting some of those easy 3s that we want. We didn't get any of those in the first half."
Swanson had two more 3s in the fourth quarter, finishing with a game-high 18 points on four 3-pointers. Koch had 11 points, powered by a trio of triples, including one late that officially sealed the win for the Bruins.
The Bengals played the second half without guard Logan Brown, who appeared to tweak his ankle near the end of the first half. Hayden Ferguson had a team-high 15 points for the Bengals, while Huot finished with 14 on three 3-pointers.
"I'm proud of the boys. They competed, they played really hard, didn't quit. Not having Logan in the second half hurt us a little bit for sure, but I'm proud of the way the boys played," said Helena head coach Brandon Day. "(Capital) got hot in the second half, and that was part of our success in the first half -- they didn't shoot well -- and Capital is capable of doing that. We have to learn to close games, but still I'm proud of the boys."
With the win, Capital improved to 12-4 overall and 9-3 in Western AA play, keeping pace with Missoula Sentinel, which lost Friday night to Missoula Big Sky.
Helena High fell to 6-10, 5-7 entering the final week of the regular season, where the Capital City squads travel to Kalispell to meet Flathead and Glacier.
"That's what we just talked about -- it's go time. We cannot take a step back, we have to get that confidence back. I think that second half should certainly send us on our way," said Almquist. "Confidence in each other, confidence in ourselves and when we're playing that spirited, like we did in the second half, I think we can play with anybody."