HELENA — The Helena High girls basketball team will carry its No. 1 ranking at least one more week.
The two-time defending state champion Bengals beat third-ranked Helena Capital at home on Friday, 59-45, to take control of the Western AA.
It looked like the game could come down to the final minutes, but Helena used an 8-0 run toward the end of the third quarter to push its lead to as many as 14. Capital would cut the deficit to seven at the start of the fourth quarter, but the Bengals went on a 12-0 run to push their lead to 19 with three minutes to play.
Capital came out of the gates fast and led Helena 11-5 with 2:30 left in the first quarter. However, a 10-3 spurt to close the quarter put the Bengals up 15-14 after one, and they would not give up the lead the remainder of the game.
“We just stayed calm. We knew that it was a long game,” Helena High’s Vanessa Walsh said. “The first five minutes, they’re important, but they aren’t the whole game. We had to play through that and play through the adversity, and that was good for us to see.”
Helena star Jamie Pickens picked up her fourth foul with 2:03 to go in the third quarter, giving Capital life. But the Bruins couldn’t capitalize with Pickens on the bench, as Emily Feller rattled off eight points points in the matter of two minutes for the Bengals.
“Our depth is huge. Knowing that the eight girls we have on the bench, there’s not going to be a letdown when a single one comes in,” Walsh said. “(Pickens) always tells us, ‘If they shut me down, you guys are going to hit the shots and I have confidence in you.'”
Walsh and Abby Marcille led the Bengals in scoring with 11 points, while Feller added 10. Sydney Sheridan led Capital with 16.
With the win, Helena High improves to 9-0 overall and 3-0 in Western AA play. Capital falls to 8-1, 2-1. The Bengals travel to Kalispell next weekend to take on Kalispell Flathead and Kalispell Glacier on Friday and Saturday. Capital will take on Kalispell Glacier on Friday and Kalispell Flathead on Saturday.