The Thompson Warriors’ area schedule may be over, but their chances for another big program win certainly weren’t when they visited the no. 1 area seed Helena Huskies for a county rivalry match and a shot at revenge for their loss earlier in the season. Thompson had lost their last seven games to Helena with their last win coming in November of 2015, but all that came to an end as the Warriors held on for a thrilling win in the closing seconds, 55-54.
“It’s a super exciting win for our team you know all of our guys contributed, offensively we were able to get just enough done and defensively I think we pressured them enough to stay in the game,” said Warriors head coach Dru Powell. “Just proud of our guys and the complete team effort tonight.”
Both team were off and running to start the first quarter and Thompson grabbed a 6-4 lead on Chaney Johnson’s second consecutive basket. Helena answered quickly with a 10-0 run including two threes from Caden Pierce for what would end up being their biggest lead of the ballgame. The teams traded baskets for the duration of the quarter and sat at 19-15 when the dust settled.
The second quarter had the direct opposite pace and featured some lock down defense from the Warriors. They only scored nine points in the quarter, but held the Huskies to just one made basket and two free throws. Zach Littleton hit a three before time expired on the first quarter and scored another five points to help Thompson take a slim 24-23 lead into halftime.
The game of ebbs and flows continued in the third quarter as the lead changed hands five times in the period. Littleton came up big again scoring the first five points of the quarter including his third shot from beyond the arc to that point.
The Huskies battled back on the strength of Daunte Cave’s slashing ability. Every defender Thompson threw at him seemed to get lost in the shuffle when Cave put the ball on the floor. Cave scored seven in the quarter as Helena flipped the one point deficit to a one point 38-37 lead heading into the game’s final frame.
The fourth quarter was a tense and wild event as neither team led by more than four. A three from Jalen Bustamante to open the quarter and two Grant Hopkins free throws gave Thompson a 42-38 lead, but the Huskies responded with a 7-0 run of their own to retake the lead.
Littleton stepped up again for the Warriors again and lifted a three five feet above the top of the key that he send sailing into the net to tie the game at 45.
“Really excited to see Zach play well and shoot well, he’s battled an injury throughout the season and seems to be really coming on strong,” said Powell. “He’s a great kid and a hard worker so somebody I️ couldn’t be more proud of.”
A series of hustle plays helped Thompson retake the lead as Tre Roberson was fouled on a layup attempt off an offensive rebound. After making one of two, Bustamante knocked the ball loose on a drive from Daunte Cave and was fouled from behind on the fast break. He calmly sank them both sparking a clutch stretch from the Warriors at the charity stripe.
Helena’s Nate Andrews was fouled on a three point attempt in the corner on the very next play, but Andrews came down awkwardly on his descent and had to be helped to the bench after scoring nine of his 11 points in the second half. Parker King replaced him and stepped to the line, but could only make the last of three attempts to leave the Huskies behind 48-46.
It was at this point that Powell’s squad was satisfied with milking the clock and forcing the Huskies to foul intentionally. Grant Hopkins sank both free throws on a one-and-one opportunity giving the Warriors back their four point lead.
However, Caden Pierce would once again make his presence felt hitting a corner three to again narrow the margin to one. Littleton was the next Warrior to step to the line and also hit both shots giving him a team-high 18. It would be Pierce again for Helena on the next play who took a pass off a screen in the corner and hit nothing but net with 3.3 seconds remaining.
“We actually have a play designed for that at the end of the game so our guys knew exactly what we were going to do whenever we had the ball and we called a timeout so we were able to execute the play to a T,” said Powell.
The Warriors proceeded to launch a pass from the opposite baseline which was deflected into the hands of sophomore Jack Dorolek. Dorolek quickly pump faked and drove left, but was hip checked and fell to try floor forcing the referees to call a foul. Thompson, already in the double bonus, had two more shots to take the game tied at 54.
After ten referees added one second to the game clock Dorolek stepped to the line, but his first shot ricocheted off the back iron and out sending the Husky faithful into a chorus of cheers. Helena called a timeout and Dorolek walked with his teammates back to the bench. Dru Powell’s positive words in the huddle became a self-fulfilling prophecy.
“Our game plan from that point forward was after he makes this shot this is what we’re going to do,” said Powell.
Dorolek put the first shot behind him and the second attempt found nothing but net. Helena’s desperation heave fell well short as the game’s final buzzer sounded. The Warriors made 12 of 15 free throws in the fourth quarter of their closest win of the season.
Pierce led Helena with 20 points while Cave finished with 13. Jalen Bustamante and Tre Roberson added seven and six points for Thompson, respectively.
Thompson will have their regular season finale on the road as they travel to Pelham on Friday, Feb 1 at 7:30 p.m. Helena will also finish their regular season on the road and face Oak Mountian Feb 1 at 7:30 p.m.