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Henry’s Nathan Helle (No. 23) prepares to take a shot as Putnam County’s Evan Kreiser leaps in an attempt to block it Friday during the Mallards’ 63-48 victory in a Tri-County Conference game in Granville. Helle finished with 18 points, nine rebounds and four assists as the Mallards improved to 14-2 overall and 3-0 in the conference. NewsTribune photo/Scott Anderson
GRANVILLE — For Nathan Helle and his teammates on the Henry boys basketball team, it’s easy to get motivated to play Putnam County.
“The Putnam County game, that’s the only big rivalry game for us, especially with our (senior) class this year,” Helle said. “We’ve gone head to head since eighth grade up, so this game always has a lot weighing on your shoulders. It’s an easy game to get hyped up for.”
With plenty of motivation, Helle and the Mallards took control in the second quarter Friday and led the rest of the way to pick up a 63-48 victory in a key Tri-County Conference game in a packed R.M. Germano Gymnasium.
“The only way I can describe it is it was a constant, and against a good team like that, that’s what you have to do,” Helle said. “You have to do the little things. The only way you are going to beat a good team like that is you have to work harder. Tonight, we wanted it.”
The win moves the Mallards to 14-2 overall and 3-0 in the conference.
“This puts us in front,” Henry coach Steve Self said. “We’re in control of our own fate, and that feels really good for us.”
The Panthers, meanwhile, slip to 13-3 and 3-2 in the league.
“We’re pretty much out of it now,” PC coach Josh Nauman said. “We won it three years in a row and our guys knew we controlled our own destiny — if we won out, we were going to win it. Now we have two losses and we’re pretty much out of it. Henry and Marquette are both undefeated. I don’t see them both getting two (losses), but hopefully we can bounce back and see Henry again in two weeks (in the TCC tournament final). Hopefully, we’ll be ready to play that night and at least get the conference tournament.”
The Mallards led 16-14 after the first quarter Friday and then opened the second quarter on a 9-0 run — with four points from Devin Guelde — for a 23-14 lead with 4:02 left in the first half.
The teams traded points until Helle drove to the basket with 18 seconds left, and following a turnover, Henry’s Kyle Henderson banked in a 3-pointer at the buzzer for a 34-23 halftime lead.
“We were just hungry,” Self said. “Devin coming off the bench gave us a huge bump. He’s a high energy kid. When he’s around the rim, he can finish. The other kids sort of build off that energy. I thought his game was big. Nathan had a couple big buckets in the second quarter. Kyle banking the 3 in was sort of the dagger for the first half.”
The Panthers made a charge to start the second half, going on a 9-2 run to open the third quarter to pull within four at 36-32 with 4:10 left in the period.
“That would have been huge if we could have (gotten the lead), but we couldn’t hit shots,” Nauman said. “We just couldn’t score and we weren’t playing real well on defense either. That’s a bad combo.”
The Mallards turned the tide with a fast-break layup by Jake Schlosser followed by back-to-back layups by Helle on drives through the middle of the lane.
“It was getting a little sloppy and a little bit slow,” Helle said. “I was like, ‘Hey, we have to do something here to get going.’ I tried creating something and ended up getting a couple buckets.”
The Mallards led 45-34 entering the fourth quarter as Henderson again drained a 3-pointer just before the buzzer and led by at least seven points the entire final period.
Helle finished with 18 points, nine rebounds and four assists, Guelde scored 14 points and grabbed seven boards, Henderson finished with 13 points and six rebounds and Schlosser added 10 points.
Alec Veverka had 14 points and 13 rebounds for PC, while Harold Fay added 14 points and Evan Kreiser had 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Note: Henry is the No. 1 seed for the TCC tournament while PC is the No. 2 seed. The teams could meet twice more — in the TCC final and in the Class 1A Marquette Regional.
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.
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