JEFFERSON CITY — James Rackers Fieldhouse is tucked in the back of Helias Catholic High School, through a maze of locker-filled hallways, past a gym where the volleyball team practices and out of a cavernous lobby decorated with concrete pavers.
Building service workers gave directions to the gym hours before the so-called “Catholic Bowl” on Tuesday, when mid-Missouri’s two Catholic high schools met on the hardwood.
Helias beat Fr. Tolton Regional Catholic High by 40 points in this game two years ago. On a neutral court, Helias won by 2 earlier this season.
Tuesday night, the title changed hands.
In front of close to 1,200 spectators and high-ranking clergy in the area, Tolton (20-2, Class 3) ran away with the game’s latest edition, downing Helias (17-5, Class 4) 63-44.
Then Rackers emptied. So did the hallways that led to it. The lobby was silent, save for the echo of lonesome footsteps banging off the concrete walls.
Tolton’s team was the last group out the door. Helias High belonged to the Trailblazers, at least for the night.
“The environment was great,” coach Jeremy Osborne said. “It was loud, it was chaotic, but our guys kept their composure.”
And they took the boisterous crowd out of the game with an 8-2 run to end the third quarter, which was capped by a steal and dunk by senior forward Josh Boyer.
He dove to the floor for a loose ball on one end and beat the Crusaders back on defense on the other. Sophomore guard Michael Porter Jr. fed him a bounce pass in transition.
Boyer caught it and threw down a two-handed jam, swinging on the rim as the scoreboard flipped digits. Tolton took a seven-point lead. The Crusaders took a timeout.
The Trailblazers met Boyer at half court amid battle cries from a devoted fan base and groans from the Helias faithful.
“I’m gonna try to dunk it as hard as I can and get the crowd hyped up,” Boyer said. “Everybody gets amped up and people start hitting shots and playing harder.”
Tolton out-scored Helias 23-12 the rest of the way, including an 18-4 final period.
It took 7 minutes for the Crusaders to score their first points of the period, free throws from junior guard Sam Husting. Another minute passed before senior forward Hale Hentges banked in a layup for the team’s first field goal.
“They executed for 32 minutes,” Osborne said. “They could have easily cracked in this environment. They could have easily cracked when they went on their little run in the first half. But they toughed it out.”
Helias took a 2-point lead 2 minutes before halftime, but Porter knocked down a 3-pointer from the top of the key and was fouled. Tolton never looked back and neither did Porter, who scored a game-high 29 points, 10 of them in the fourth quarter.
“In the fourth quarter, coach told us to take over,” Porter said.
By the halfway mark of the fourth quarter, Tolton had, and Helias stopped fighting back. The drooped heads at the end of the Crusader bench said it all. With 2 minutes to play, coach Josh Buffington told his team to start fouling to stop the clock.
Tolton’s lead ballooned. Catholic Diocese of Jefferson City Bishop John Gaydos patted the Rev. Michael Coleman, Tolton’s chaplain, on the back.
The Trailblazers’ coronation was complete.
“Two years ago, this was a 40-point loss,” Osborne said. “These kids don’t forget that.”
Supervising editor is Wade Livingston.