HELENA — The top-ranked Helena High girls basketball team opened Class AA Western Conference play on Saturday at a high level.
Unfortunately, that didn't bode well for for Missoula Sentinel as he Bengals cruised to a 71-22 home victory.
Their full-court defensive pressure overwhelmed the young Spartans, which led to 28 turnovers and easy transition buckets.
"Our girls are buying into the fact that defense wins games," Helena coach Eric Peterson said. "They are flying around right now on the defensive end. They testing each other and taking pride in their individual defense. That's what's gets us going on the offensive end — when we get those steals and turnovers. That creates easy shots for us. Then we we have a lot more confidence shooting the 3-pointer."
Helena (7-0, 1-0) went on an 11-0 run to begin the game, a 24-0 run to begin the second quarter and a 9-0 run to being the second half.
Three players reached double figures in scoring for the Bengals. Vanessa Walsh led the team as she ran the offense. She scored 15 points and grabbed seven steals.
"We'll always start out with pressure; that's just who we are," Peterson said. "We'll adjust accordingly. If they are breaking it, we'll lay off. If continue to get turnovers like tonight these girls are acting like sharks in the water. They are getting after it and taking chances for the next one."
Paige Aasved was active with 16 points and six steals. Jamie Pickens scored 11 points and had five steals. Payton Aasved added 8 points.
"Once again we have three girls in double figures," Peterson said. "Vanessa Walsh is playing really well right now. She's taking control of our offense and being a vocal leader. She's getting us where we need to be. It's a very team oriented group."
Sentinel (3-3, 0-1) only has one experienced player on the court in forward Lexi Deden. The ball-handling guards are young and hadn't seen a defensive of that caliber.
Helena's physical play was also an issue.
"We are supper young," Sentinel coach Karen Deden said. "That's not taking anything away from them. I return one player, and they haven't played a team like that. This is only our second road trip. It was a really physical game, and I don't think they were ready for that."
Lexi Deden led the Spartans in scoring with eight points, while Jayden Salisbury had five points.
"We just have to get better and take better care of the ball and not feel overwhelmed," coach Deden said. "We just to get more game-like situations and tougher on defense."