(MTN News) The Helena High boys basketball team had been waiting to catch a break. Thursday night, things went there way.
The Bengals beat Missoula Big Sky 46-43 on a Derek Jenneskens three pointer as time expired. The win gives Helena High an automatic berth into the Class AA state tournament.
“I had no idea (how much time was left),” said Jenneskens. “I honestly thought A.J. (Kanthack) was taking it to the hoop so I was screaming for him to get to the hoop but then I saw it coming my way and had to get it up.”
Tied at 43 with 6.9 seconds remaining, Helena head coach John Hollow called a timeout to draw up a final play. As Connor Matthews fired a pass intended for Kanthack, the Bengals nearly turned it over. But the senior guard found Jenneskens alone on the wing for one final chance. The high-arcing shot found the backboard before going through the net after the horn had sounded.
“That’s not what we drew up at all,” said Hollow. “The ball for once this season, we haven’t had many balls bounce our way this year. We lost a game last week on a last-second shot. For once, somebody was with us. The ball bounced right to Derek and wow. That’s a pretty exciting finish.”
It was the win Helena High needed. The Bengals, who opened conference play 6-0, had dropped three of their last four games entering the week. The victory, particularly how the team won, could be the spark they need heading into the state tournament.
“It gets us some momentum going into state,” said Jenneskens. “It was an exciting game. Coming off of that, you feel invincible almost.”
Thursday was certainly a game of runs leading to Jenneskens’ first career game-winner. Helena High used a 10-3 run to end the first quarter with a five point lead. But Big Sky awoke in the second.
Down 14-7 early in the quarter, the Eagles outscored the Bengals 14-4 to earn a three point halftime lead.
Helena High appeared to pull ahead for good in the third quarter. Ragen Shein scored 14 points on his senior night and drew some key fouls against the Big Sky defenders. The future Montana Tech basketball player also snagged some big rebounds in the contest.
The final minutes were certainly the most entertaining. Tied at 38, Logan Teegarden nailed a three pointer in the corner to give the Bengals a 41-38 advantage. On the next Helena High possession, Jenneskens used a backdoor cut to extend the lead to five with just over a minute to go.
But the Eagles sent Kanthack to the line on back-to-back trips and the senior missed the front end of the one-and-one each time. Jake Tabish capitalized with a triple to bring Big Sky within two. With seconds remaining, Shein blocked an attempt to tie, but Drew Sheridan was in position for an easy put-back to tie the game at 43 and set up Jenneskens’ heroics.
“These kids haven’t been in this position a bunch,” said Hollow. “When you haven’t been in that position, you can go about it two ways. You can let it get at you or you don’t let it get at you. Our kids let it get at them a bit tonight. We didn’t play as good as we could have played.
“Somehow, some way, I don’t know how but they found a way to win. I’m very proud of them.”
Richie Melby - MTN News