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Henry junior Nathan Helle (No. 23) looks to pass between Putnam County’s Harold Fay (No. 20) and Xavier Warren during the Mallards’ 55-51 victory in a Tri-County Conference game in Henry. NewsTribune photo/Genna Ord
HENRY — The Henry boys basketball team struggled early Friday night as it fell behind Putnam County by as many as 10 points in the second quarter and committed 10 first-half turnovers.
Nathan Helle helped the host Mallards make sure none of that mattered.
Helle had all of his game-high 21 points in the final 18 minutes of action — including 11 of the Mallards’ 12 third-quarter points — and hit a pair of free throws with 2.6 second left to help Henry complete a 55-51 comeback win over the Panthers in Tri-County Conference action.
“We just found a way to win. We were down 10 and it was tough, but we just had to keep grinding. We were trying to find shots, trying to get people open on the block and we just found it,” said Henry captain Trent Richards. “That was a good win. Putnam County’s a great team. It felt good.”
Helle’s performance helped Henry win the battle of TCC unbeatens.
“(Helle) is incredible. He’s a great player. He’s a great teammate. He’s just a person you love to have out on the floor with you, and a person you hate to defend,” Richards said. “When he can get on a roll like that, he creates his own offense and we get points. It’s amazing and it’s fun.”
After what Henry coach Steve Self dubbed a “passive” opening to the game without a field goal attempt for the first 14 minute, 45 seconds, Helle got rolling late in the second quarter with a personal 5-0 run in the final 1:15 of the half.
The junior standout broke the ice with a strong basket off a drive and added a pull-up 3-pointer with a defender in his face with 35 seconds left in the half to send the Mallards into the locker room down 27-23.
Helle kept up his strong offensive performance after intermission as he rattled off three post buckets to knot the game at 29-29 with 3:24 left in the third quarter.
He went on to add a determined scoring drive and old-fashioned three-point play with 16 seconds left in the third to knot things up at 35-35 entering the final eight minutes.
The Panthers struck early in the fourth with back-to-back post baskets from Evan Kreiser and a free throw from Harold Fay to claim a five-point lead at 40-35, but Henry had another comeback in store.
Henry’s Kyle Henderson connected for two points in the paint and added a three-point play after getting fouled on a layup to pull the Mallards to within one at 44-43.
Fay responded with a score off a baseline drive, but 1-of-2 free throws from Ryan Condit and a 3-pointer from Henderson put Henry out in front for good at 47-46. The long shot from up top broke a 0-for-6 shooting slump from behind the arc from Henderson.
“Even he admits he had an off night shooting, but he’s a good basketball player and he’s got a good shot. When he’s on, he’s on. We needed that big bucket and he knew it and we all knew it. It was just he’s open and he can hit it,” Richards said.
PC’s Xavier Warren kept things interesting with a 3-pointer in the closing seconds to pull the Panthers within a basket at 53-51, but Helle’s final free throws sealed the 55-51 league win for the Mallards.
“That was just a struggle for 32 minutes on both sides,” Self said. “The kids were playing hard and they were battling and it never looked real smooth or real crisp. Fortunately, we came out on the winning end.”
Helle added a team-best eight rebounds to go with his game-high 21 points. Condit was the second-leading scorer for Henry (13-2, 3-0) with 17 points — including nine of Henry’s 11 first-quarter points — and added seven rebounds. Henderson joined the duo in double-digit scoring with 12 points.
Fay led PC (10-7, 3-1) with 11 points. Kreiser had 10 tallies while Warren added nine. Sam Garland led the Panthers with nine rebounds.
“They played hard. We just missed too many open shots and missed too many free throws. We missed a lot of free throws to start the game and that comes back to haunt you,” said PC coach Josh Nauman, whose Panthers finished 7-for-14 from the charity stripe. “We didn’t capitalize (off of early turnovers). When you get turnovers, you’ve got to attack and get to the rim. On a lot of (the transition shots) we got fouled and just missed the free throws then.
“We had missed shots and missed free throws and they hit some shots at the end.”
Chris Yucus can be reached at 220-6995 or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsChris.
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