HELENA — Helena High outscored Great Falls CMR 21-6 spanning the third and fourth quarters to pull away for a 50-38 win in Class AA boys basketball action on Thursday night.
In a game that was a struggle offensively for much of the contest, Helena’s Logan Brown turned the tide against CMR with one play.
As the third quarter wound to a close, Brown corralled a loose ball, glanced at the clock as he crossed half court, fired from just inside the logo and banked in a 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded. Brown’s triple gave the Bengals a 35-32 lead after three.
“One thing that I love about these bunch of boys is that their effort is endless,” Helena High head coach Brandon Day said. “That buzzer beater was a big one for us moving into the fourth quarter to get us motivated to finish.”
The Helena offense wasn’t able to muster much from outside, but the Bengals converted numerous second-chance buckets in the second half to break the backs of the Rustlers. Hayden Ferguson and Holden Sampson, in particular, were terrific on the glass in the second half in creating opportunities for their teammates.
“We’re a physical bunch of boys, we play hard. We need second chances, especially (Thursday),” Day said. “Pierce (Brown) wasn’t shooting well, which doesn’t happen very often, so those second chances were for big us down the stretch.”
CMR never seemed to get in a rhythm offensively. The Rustlers continually settled for jump shots that refused to fall, as Helena frustrated CMR by switching defenses throughout the contest. When CMR was able to get the ball inside, the Rustlers were often unable to convert due to smothering defense from the Bengals.
“That’s our strength. I think that our strength as a team is defense,” Day said. “We play hard. We’re pretty fundamentally sound as far as not taking a lot of chances. We box out well. For being undersized, we do some really good things under the basket.”
This represents the first loss for the defending Class AA champion Rustlers. But for Helena High, this win could be seen as a turning point later in the season.
“It’s good for this bunch of boys to be able to get a win, especially against a good team,” said Day. “It hasn’t happened in a few years, so hopefully it leads to more wins down the road. … We were talking about making our statement, getting a few more wins in the win column, and this couldn’t have been a better way to get going.”
Ferguson had 11 points to lead a balanced attack for the Bengals, with Connor Murgel adding nine and Brown scoring eight. Bryce Depping led CMR with 11.
Helena improves to 3-3, while Great Falls CMR drops to 5-1. Helena is back in action Saturday at Missoula Sentinel. CMR hosts Butte on Saturday afternoon.