Excelling early

GREENFIELD — Katie Helgason isn’t a morning person. Every day when the alarm goes off, it’s a never-ending battle, the Greenfield-Central junior said.

Not that the Richmond Red Devils would believe it after watching the point guard and the Cougars run wild Tuesday morning in the opening round of the 2015 Laker Farm Implement Service, Inc. & Riley Park Tire Service, Inc. Tournament.

“I’m always tired in the morning,” Helgason said, “so I had to make sure I got up extra early (Tuesday) to give myself enough time to get out of my bad morning mood.”

It took Helgason less than a minute to shake off any lingering fatigue from her 7 a.m. wake-up call once the ball was tipped at 10 a.m.

Energized for the challenge, Helgason dished out seven assists, grabbed six steals and scored eight points to help the host Cougars win 70-30.

The victory propelled Class 4A Greenfield-Central (11-3) into today’s semifinal round in their own eight-team tournament where Class A No. 6 Marquette Catholic (11-1) awaits for another morning showdown at 10 a.m.

The Blazers defeated 4A East Central 51-48 in the first round, winning their 11th consecutive game since dropping their season opener last month.

The Cougars won their sixth straight with junior Madison Wise scoring a game-high 23 points on 9 of 14 shooting from the field and 3-for-5 shooting from 3-point range.

Wise hauled in a team-high eight rebounds, had two steals, four assists and a blocked shot.

Despite filling up the stat sheet, Wise was far from playing solo.

Greenfield-Central had three players finish in double figures and shot an impressive 65 percent from the floor in the first half.

The Cougars built a 16-2 lead after the first quarter and were up 26-8 at halftime before sealing the deal in the second half for head coach Doug Laker’s 100th victory in eight years at Greenfield-Central.

“I was going to take the game ball and have all the girls sign it, but they weren’t so sure,” Laker joked afterwards. “They asked, ‘Can we play with it the next game?’

“We shot great shots today and shared the ball. When we share the basketball like that, it’s fun to watch.”

Helgason was the catalyst throughout, finding her teammates in transition, off set screens and diving for loose balls and applying relentless pressure on defense.

“When she attacks north-south, she’s very good. When she goes side to side is when we get in trouble,” Laker said. “She’s done a great job for us.”

The Cougars’ outside shooting was right on par as well.

The team shot 12 of 20 from beyond the arc. Kate Real was 4-for-5 with 12 points.

Madeline Gibson came off the bench and buried 4-for-4 attempts from 3-point range for 12 points while Wise hit three treys and Helgason added another.

“It was really important to win today because we want to make it to the championship game,” Helgason said.

“We wanted to dictate our tempo in the game. We always go for the extra pass if we have it there. We don’t have any selfish plays. We’re taught in practice to find the open player.”

Motivated by their runner-up finish in the tournament last year to eventual IHSAA state finalist Homestead, the Cougars want nothing more than another shot at the title game.

Greenfield-Central lost to Homestead 73-42 in the tournament finals last season, and the competition remains fierce with 4A No. 7 Westfield (14-1) advancing into the other semifinal against 4A Pendleton Heights (6-7). Their game will immediately follow Greenfield-Central’s semifinal today.

“I love when other people say we’re a one-player team. I think we’re going to prove them wrong,” Laker said.

“The best part is the players genuinely like each other. That’s the bottom line. They have great team chemistry and it runs throughout the program. It’s special.”

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Rich Torres is sports editor at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at rtorres@greenfieldreporter.com or 317-477-3227.