Fans and players have been looking forward to the Havre High girls basketball team’s season opener for some time now, and with two tough road games on the schedule for this weekend, the wait is over.
Havre fans won’t get to see the defending Central A champions play at home just yet, but the Ponies will face the Class B Malta M-Ettes and Class AA CMR Rustlers on the road. HHS will face the M-Ettes in Malta tonight, and then the Rustlers in Great Falls on Saturday.
“The biggest thing we can do this weekend is play how we have been practicing,” Havre High head coach Dustin Kraske said. “Practice has been good, the kids are focused, playing hard, and getting after each other. Everybody is looking to get better all the time, and our hope will be to continue that type of focus and effort this weekend while playing two very good teams.”
There isn’t much mystery behind this Pony squad, as they lost just two seniors from a year ago. But facing two tough non-conference opponents, the Ponies are still focusing on themselves, and what they want to do well this weekend.
On defense, the plan is simple for both opponents. The Ponies are looking to run their up-tempo press, and looking to run it well. They need to keep the opposing players in front of them, and they need to execute well in a one-on-one situations. This will be key, as there are a select few that the Ponies need to know where they are at all times. CMR has two returning All-State players, and are led by Diondra Denton, a future player for Minot State. And for Malta, they house Courtney Henry, one of the top guards in the state, and a future player for the MSU-Billings.
“We don’t want to rely on help defense and rotating,” Kraske said. “We just want to play fundamental, defensive basketball.”
Along with executing well, Kraske also said the Ponies need communicate and rebound on the defensive end.
On offense, the Ponies are also focusing on what they do, rather than what the opposition is going to do. And the Ponies will face a little bit of everything, as the M-Ettes hove shown they love to press teams, while CMR can man up or play zone with very high efficiency.
With so much athleticism and returning talent, the Ponies are expecting to execute well right out of the gate. Lacey Waid, Haley Ohm, Brandy Lambourne, Peyton Filius, Neya Bischoff, Tori Mazurkiewicz and Morgan Mazurkiewicz will be the rotating seven on varsity, most of which earned all or very extensive varsity minutes last season.
HHS is quick and can get the ball up the floor with a lot of pace and with a lot of weapons. But even with five threats on the floor at all times, the Ponies want, and need to find a consistency and balance early. It is going to take solid play from everybody, and with Filius and Lambourne leading the way from outside, and Bischoff holding down the post, the Ponies are set on moving with pace, but also working the ball around and finding the best available shot.
“That is what we expect,” Kraske said. “We are still trying to figure out our roles, but I think games will help us with this. The kids have practiced well, but getting baskets, it is going to take use doing the unselfish, little things. Neither team we face is going to take a possession off.”
Playing on the road this weekend, the Ponies face Malta tonight at , and CMR on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. in Great Falls.