After three straight blowout losses, the Tolton Trailblazers knew they had to come out and start strong. And they did, as they were tied at the end of the first quarter (8-8) against an undefeated Helias team.
However, the end result was not as they hoped, thanks to a poor shooting performance that led to a 56-39 defeat at the hands of the Crusaders.
Senior guard Emily Gall said her team’s early start was due to the team’s tough defense.
“I think we played really good defense and that set the tone for the whole game,” Gall said.
This was the second straight road game for the Trailblazers as they faced Helias at Rackers Fieldhouse in Jefferson City on Thursday night.
Freshman forward Sophia Elfrink said the team started well due to its mentality Thursday night.
“I think its just finally realizing that if we start out strong, it will end up being a better game,” Elfrink said. “We just hustled more, we were more awake and ready to go.”
A near buzzer-beater at the end of the half put Helias up 26-18 and their lead only grew from there. The third quarter was also close, as Helias was only able to increase their lead by a single point, making the score 39-30.
However, the Trailblazers’ offense picked a bad time to become stagnant as Tolton did not score a single field goal until halfway through the final quarter. Helias eventually secured the 17-point victory over Tolton.
Only one player had a standout game for Helias, as senior small forward Ellie Rockers led all scorers with 22 points.
“She has a quick shot and that’s a little hard to guard, especially when she pops out to the short corner where our hole was in our defense,” Elfrink said.
Tolton also struggled to score against the high zone defense Helias used on Thursday. This defense caused 13 turnovers and forced Tolton to shoot 12-48 from the field.
“We made a lot of little mistakes, we need to start cutting down on those to help capitalize and make ourselves better,” Elfrink said. Gall added that her team needs to move the ball quickly in order to pass out of the zone.
Both Riley and his players have seen the improvement from their team but they understand it will be hard to win games without making shots and having a high number of turnovers.
One highlight for the Trailblazers was the play of Elfrink as she set a new career high in points with 12. She shot 7-7 from the free-throw line and had four rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot.
Despite starting the season with an 0-4 record, Riley is happy with his team’s progress, but knows they will need to grow.
“We’re so young, every night is going to be a learning process and we’ve got to keep working,” Riley said.
Riley also said this non-conference schedule might be one of the hardest the team has ever faced during his tenure as coach.
Tolton will next face Hickman at 7 p.m. Monday at Hickman High School.
Supervising editor is Seth Bodine.