A night after winning their first game of the season, the Union basketball Lady ’Cats came back to earth in their home opener against Helias.
The visiting Lady Crusaders (1-0) jumped on Union (1-1) early to claim a 57-32 victory.
“This is a great test early from a state-ranked team,” Union Head Coach Grant Young said. “It’s tough implenting in a three-week preseason a new system and style. I have all the faith in our team and know they can rally from this loss and learn from their mistakes.”
Helias led 20-5 after one quarter and 33-11 at the intermission.
“I liked the way we looked with the short time we had to prepare,” said Helias Head Coach Doug Light. “Usually, we have another week of practice before we play our first game. We always like to have more time.”
Light is a former Union girls basketball head coach and his wife, Sabrina, is a Union graduate.
Helias scored the first seven points of the game before Union’s Whitney Vitt put Union on the scoreboard. Union’s other first quarter points came from Bethany Coons on a basket and a free throw.
Helias relied on its key returners to put the ball into the basket. Seniors Taylor Hagenhoff, Emma Verslues and Bre Zanders keyed Helias offensively and defensively. While Helias showed offensive prowess, the Lady Crusaders took pride in their defensive play.
“Defensively, we played well,” Light said. “I’ve got a lot of respect for Union and Grant Young as a coach. I was pretty pleased with how things went. We know how fast Union is and stressed to get back defensively. We know that they have so much speed and quickness.”
Union was unable to get the fastbreak game going at all in the first half.
“After missing our first six shots, we really got tentative shooting,” Young said. “Give lots of credit to the size and aggressiveness of Helias defense. Our strength is going inside out with Rachael (Bassett), and Coach Light’s gameplan from the start was eliminating her touches and taking her scoring inside out of the game.”
At the intermission, Verslues had 13 points while Hagenhoff had scored 10.
“And neither one scored in the second half,” Light said. “Others picked it up in the second half.”
Young said Verslues took advantage of her chances.
“Defensively, our approach angles on closeouts gave Helias easy dribble penetration,” Young said. “No. 22, Verslues, really exploited it and got some easy baskets.”
Hagenhoff and Zanders got into foul trouble in the second half, creating opportunities for others to step up.
One of the players who did that was Light’s daughter, Molly, a freshman guard.
“Molly handled the situation pretty good,” Light said. “Others stepped up and filled pretty good roles.”
Throughout the game, Union continued to have trouble shooting.
“We went 0-11 in the first half at the three-point line,” Young said. “We have some really good shooters. I know as the season progresses they will have more confidence and experience offenssively in themselves. Going 5-24 in the first half dug us a hole too deep. We played with more intensity and played more evenly second half.”
Union heads into the Orchard Farm Tournament next week as the second seed. The Lady ’Cats open play Monday against Lutheran North at 6:30 p.m.
The tournament will continue Wednesday and Friday.
Helias is idle until the Norm Stewart Classic Saturday, Dec. 1., and will take on Pleasant Hill at 2 p.m.
“I believe they’re one of the top teams coming into the season,” Light said. “They were No. 1 for most of last sason. We’re trying to schedule teams we think will take us to the limit.”
Helias will return to this area in January, seeing action at the Union and Borgia tournaments.