RACINE, Ohio — At the end of the night, much like the rest of the game, the Lady Tornadoes just couldn’t find a way to stop Peyton Helpinstine.
Trialing by one point with under 15 seconds to play, Helpinstine – who finished with a game-high 31 points for the visiting East girls basketball team – drove the length of the court and converted a contested layup, giving the Lady Tartans a 50-49 victory over non-conference host Southern.
The Lady Tornadoes (5-5) — who have now lost four straight games — began the game with a 5:30, 7-4 run, but East (10-4) finished the period with an 8-2 spurt and led 12-9.
Southern briefly cut the guests’ lead to one-point, early in the second quarter, but East extended the advantage to 21-13 by the midway point of the period. Both teams added five points over the remainder of the first half, and East took the 26-18 lead into the locker room.
“I wasn’t happy with the first half,” SHS head coach Kent Wolfe said. “I thought we were very slow and I thought we didn’t take care of the ball, we missed a couple of layups and were only down eight.”
Within the first two minutes of the second half, East extended its lead to a game-high 11 points, at 31-20. SHS snapped out of it with an 11-2 run, but East outscored Southern 7-to-2 over the final 2:05 of the third, giving the guests a 40-32 advantage headed into the finale.
The Lady Tartans pushed their lead to nine points, 43-34, two minutes into the fourth quarter, but the Lady Tornadoes went on a 10-1 run, tying the game at 44 on a two-pointer by freshman Baylee Wolfe.
With just under two minutes to play, Helpinstine reestablished the East lead with a steal and break-away layup, but SHS senior Faith Teaford tied the game with a pair of free throw makes, with 1:35 left on the clock.
With 51 seconds to play, Southern freshman Phoenix Cleland sank two free throws, giving the Lady Tornadoes their first lead since the first quarter, at 48-46. However, Helpinstine again tied the game for East, this time sinking 2-of-2 free throws, with 40 seconds to play.
Southern missed a pair of free throws with 14 seconds left, but Teaford pulled in the offensive rebound and was fouled. The Lady Tornadoes senior and newest member of the school’s 1,000-point club made the first of two free throws, giving the hosts a 49-48 lead.
The second free throw was missed and rebounded by the Lady Tartans, who quickly got the ball in the hands of Helpinstine. After Helpinstine’s go-ahead layup, the Lady Tornadoes had a chance to win it, but the 18-foot runner missed, giving East the 50-49 win.
“We are very happy with what our kids are doing,” East head coach Walter Monroe said. “They could have quit right there at the end, and they didn’t quit. This is a good team we played, a very good team, they’re well disciplined. We’re very happy with our kids.”
Southern won the rebounding battle by a 34-to-18 clip, including 17-to-1 on the offensive glass. The Lady Tornadoes committed just five turnovers in the second half and won the turnover battle by a 19-17 edge.
The Lady Tartans shot 20-of-38 (52.6 percent) from the field, including 3-of-11 (27.3 percent) from beyond the arc, while Southern was 15-of-55 (27.3 percent) from the field, including 2-of-13 (15.4 percent) from deep. SHS also held the advantage from the stripe, making 17-of-31 (54.8 percent) free throws, with East making 7-of-16 (43.8 percent).
“We just did not have an answer for (Helpinstine),” Coach Wolfe said. “Its a tough matchup for us. I’m disappointed that we let her get all the way down the court on the last possession. We allowed her to get all the way to the basket. At least you have foul her and make her hit you from the line. You can’t give her a two-footer and that’s exactly what happened.”
Helpinstine paired 31 points with five assists and four steals to lead East, while Shay Brown marked nine points, six helpers and three blocked shots. Jasmyne Fracutschy and Brianna Humble both contributed four points and five rebounds to the winning cause, while Meagan Carver chipped in with two points.
Teaford led Southern with a double-double of 25 points and 15 rebounds to go with team-highs of four steals and three rejections. Phoenix Cleland scored six points, Sierra Cleland added five points and two assists, while Josie Cleland chipped in with four points and two assists. Macie Michael scored three points in the setback, while Baylee Wolfe, Ashley Acree and Jaiden Roberts each finished with two points.
Southern will try to snap its four-game skid on Thursday, January 5, when they visit Trimble.
“We just didn’t take care of the ball, and we’ve basically been in a four-game rut doing that,” Wolfe said. “Ultimately, we have to take care of the ball better. You have to use inexperienced guards, but we’re at the point now — halfway through the year — that we can’t be making the same mistakes all the time. We need someone who can score, other than Faith, and we don’t have that yet.”
The Lady Tartans will return home next week, when they host Ironton St. Joseph, which East has already defeated once this year.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.