HELENA — Round 1 goes to Helena High.
The Bengals held off crosstown rival Helena Capital on Thursday night in front of a packed house, picking up a Western AA boys basketball victory in the process, 48-43.
As has been for Helena High in most of its wins this season, the defense came through when the Bengals needed it most. Helena High drew four offensive foul calls in the fourth quarter alone, including Hayden Ferguson’s drawn charge with less than 10 seconds to play, to stave off Helena Capital’s comeback attempt.
“We’ve worked a lot this week on help defense,” Helena High head coach Brandon Day said. “We’ve been working all year on help defense, but (Thursday) they actually grasped that concept and did a good job getting where they need to be.”
The Bengals and Bruins were tied at 40 with just more than four minutes to play when Helena High’s Pierce Brown banked in a 3-pointer from the top of the key to put Helena High up by three. After Capital split a pair of free throws at the other end, Brown effectively put the dagger in the Bruins with another triple to push the lead to five.
“That’s something we’ve been hoping to see,” Day said. “They’re both capable, Pierce and Connor (Murgel). They shot the ball well, too. It was a good game.”
The Bengals needed Brown’s hot shooting throughout the night, as Capital’s Trevor Swanson buried three 3s in the first quarter and scored all 13 of the Bruins’ points. Bridger Grovom got hot in the second quarter for Capital, hitting his own trio of triples, but Brown would have the last say.
After Capital scored with five seconds to play in the first half, Ferguson pushed the ball up court, found Brown on the right wing, and Brown knocked down a heave from way downtown to cut Capital’s halftime advantage to 27-25.
Brown opened the second half the same way he ended the first half. The Bengals found Brown on the half’s first possession and he knocked down another 3-pointer to give the Bengals the lead. The two sides traded buckets throughout the quarter, but Helena High grabbed a four-point lead headed into the final frame. Four free throws by Capital’s Brady Martin preceded Brown’s backbreaking triples.
Brown finished with a game-high 20 points on 6-of-10 shooting, all from downtown. Murgel was the only other Bengal in double figures with 12. Swanson led Helena Capital with 18 and Grovom finished with 11.
The Bengals are now 4-6 overall, 1-2 in Western AA conference play. The Bruins fall to 3-6, 0-3. Helena High is back in action next Friday, Jan. 25 at home against Kalispell Flathead. Capital hosts Kalispell Glacier the same day.