East County Sports

Highlanders hold off Foothillers, fans

Helix's JADYN JAMES defends against Grossmont's NOAH VELASCO on Tuesday night.



By Ramon Scott


EL CAJON – Now comes the hard part for the Helix Highlanders.

Saddled with having to play all their games on the road the season due to a refurbishment of the Helix gym, the Highlanders were less affected by sparse crowds during holiday tournaments and a few non-league games.

But from here on out, Grossmont Hills League opponents will have the home-court advantage twice against the Scotties.

Helix found the road to defending its league title will be more than just a challenge from the opposing team, playing in front of some of the most boisterous crowds in the conference.

Helix and Grossmont battle for position on Tuesday.

Case in point came on Tuesday night at Grossmont High.

Even with only one side of the bleachers open, a packed half of a gym willed the Foothillers back into the game in the fourth quarter after trailing by double-digits in late in the third.

The Highlanders prevailed, 57-53, in the Grossmont Hills League opener after Grossmont pulled to within 54-53 in the waning stages.

Helix junior MAURICE HOLMES was a steady force throughout, scoring 19 points and grabbing eight rebounds, while also blocking four shots and making two steals.

The big man also knocked down a pair of three-pointers in the first half.

Junior SAMMY STEWART’s late drive and basket gave Helix a three-point cushion to help seal it.

“I’m pleased that we won our first away league game and now we know what it takes for us to do that seven more times in the other team’s gym,” Holmes said. “We need to play with a chip on our shoulder and I think we did tonight.”

Junior JAHARI HILL added 10 points for the Scots, eight of which came in the second half.

Sophomore KAI JESSIE contributed nine points for Helix (11-7, 1-0).

While Helix led throughout the game, the Foothillers kept the pace in the first half thanks in part to consistent shooting, particularly from NOAH O’CLANCY and a late three-pointer in the corner by DOMINIC ESPINO.

Grossmont looks to transition on Tuesday.

A late surge by Helix made it a 30-24 game at intermission.

The Highlanders appeared to take charge of the contest midway through the third quarter, taking a 47-34 lead, but Grossmont’s hot three-point shooting the rest of the way got the crowd hyped.

DAMARI CRAWFORD made three triples in the second half, with each drainage upping the decibel level on the Hillers’ side of the stands.

Crawford’s final trey of the night gave the Hillers one last hope for a comeback.

But Holmes and Co. continued to find an answer despite the dwindling lead.

Holmes knocked down a pair of mid-range shots late in the fourth and Hill had a key offensive rebound and putback to put Helix up by five in the final minute.

The Helix fans were outnumbered but brought the energy for a weeknight game.

Holmes knows the team’s fan support will be needed as the schedule wears on, but insists it is up to him and his teammates to not be intimidated on the road.

Grossmont’s ALEX GOLOJUCH sets to pass as LACHIN BEKIROV watches.

“I think we can bring more intensity,” Holmes said. “It will translate to defense and will (help) get us in transition.”

Crawford finished with 15 points for Grossmont, while Espino guided home 12 points

LACHIN BEKIROV added 10 points, including a clutch three-pointer in the fourth quarter.

Grossmont (10-7, 0-1) will be involved in another key league tilt on Friday night when it travels to face Mount Miguel at 7.

Helix does have one more non-league game this Saturday at Serra High at 6.

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