HELIX - If there was a question of whether or not the Helix Grizzlies are for real this season, Tuesday night's game against the Nixyaawii Golden Eagles answered it.
Both squads entered the match undefeated in league play, on multiple-game win streaks, and generally considered to be top contenders in the Big Sky Conference.
By the end of the game, the Grizzlies (11-1, 4-0 BSC) had controlled the ball, the court, and the Eagles (8-4, 3-1) to find themselves with a 58-22 victory.
Yes, the Grizzlies are for real.
From the opening tip, Helix put a quarter-court press that took Nixyaawii out of its game and out of its element.
"Our defense was tenacious from the very beginning, and that set the tempo," Helix coach Randy McKone said. "We were as good on defense as we can get."
The Golden Eagles turned the ball over 13 times in the first quarter, including six steals by Helix.
"They took us out of the game mentally," Nixyaawii coach Jeremy Maddern said. "Give them a lot of credit for that. We were focusing on just not making mistakes and not playing the way we wanted to."
The defensive domination was accompanied by strong shooting on the other end, and by halftime the Grizzlies had wrangled a 40-16 lead.
Freshman Kylee Jo Rogers led Helix with 17 points, including 2-of-3 shooting from 3-point range.
"Our freshmen keep stepping up for us, and they came up at the right time," said senior Sarah Kubishta, who added nine points. "Everybody helped somewhere tonight."
All-purpose post Kayla Schroeder scored eight points, contributed six assists and grabbed four rebounds and four steals.
Cheridy Egmund provided six points, eight rebounds and two blocks to the Nixyaawii effort.
Maddern said he's not overly concerned about the loss, but his girls need to get back on track quickly before they run into more trouble.
"There's still a lot of season ahead of us, and one game won't determine it," he said. "We need to have confidence and continue working on things like our press break."
As far as Helix is concerned, Tuesday night was an example of what they can do, and what they hope is in store.
"It was close to, if not our best game," Schroeder said. "We were all in sync and we set the tone for the league. They're a good team, and we beat them pretty good."
NIXYAAWII (8-4, 3-1) 6 10 4 2 - 22
HELIX (11-1, 4-0) 19 21 13 5 - 58
NIXYAAWII - Annette Sampson 6, Cheridy Egmund 6, Miriah Withers 4, Mariah Sampson 4, Angel Sampson 2, Cekais Ganuelas, Edwina Morning Owl, Syreeta Thompson, Pricilla Craig, Naomi Wildbill.
HELIX - Kylee Jo Rogers 17, Sarah Kubishta 9, Addie Terjeson 9, Demee Williams 8, Kayla Schroeder 8, Andrea Browne 3, Meghan Schroeder 2, Crystal McMurray 2.
3-point field goals - Nixyaawii 0-0, Helix 2-5. Free throws - Nixyaawii 0-4, Helix 8-19. Fouls - Nixyaawii 17, Helix 15.
NIXYAAWII 58, HELIX 44 - The Grizzlies had a rough, 6-minute stretch from the end of the second quarter through the third, and by the time they looked up, the game was out of reach.
The Golden Eagles (10-2, 3-1 BSC) turned up the heat just at the right time, and Helix (7-5, 1-3) just couldn't respond.
"At the end of the first half we lost focus, and it got out of hand pretty quickly," Grizzlies coach DeWayne Dunlap said. "Then they came out in the third and hit four or five in a row."
The Golden Eagles used their run-and-gun offense during their hot streak to add distance between themselves and Helix, and paid careful attention to keep scoring threat Jake Clark from closing the gap.
Matt Kobzeff scored the game's only double-double with 10 points and 10 boards for Nixyaawii.
"We know the first three minutes of the third quarter are ours, and we took them tonight," he said. "We came out of the locker room ready to go."
Johnny Sampson led Nixyaawii with 14 points, while Garrett Swaggart and Justin Iles each scored 11 for Helix.
NIXYAAWII (10-2, 3-1) 14 15 19 10 - 58
HELIX (7-5, 1-3) 15 7 7 15 - 44
NIXYAAWII - Johnny Sampson 14, Mason Foster 13, Sol Van Pelt 12, Matt Kobzeff 10, Joel Mayoral 6, Dominic Haskie 2, Bobby Van Pelt 1, Martin Bettles, Trent Centre, Isaiah Case, Ashton Picard, Colten Nez.
HELIX - Garret Swaggart 11, Justin Iles 11, Tyler Grindstaff 10, Jake Clark 6, Logan Swaggart 4, Chance Raymond 2.
3-point field goals - Nixyaawii 0, Helix 2. Free throws - Nixyaawii 6-9, Helix 10-12. Fouls - Nixyaawii 14, Helix 15. Fouled out - Kobzeff (Nixyaawii), Iles (Helix).