By George Ferguson
The Havre High school boys basketball team got off to a hot start in 2002, but limped into Christmas break - suffering two straight losses to end the year. The Ponies are now rested, refreshed and looking forward to getting back on track as they prepare to host the Chinook Sugarbeeters tonight at the Havre High Gymnasium.
The Ponies are coming off decisive losses to Lewistown and CMR two weeks ago. The two games dropped Havre's overall record to 3-3 on the season, after starting off the year with three wins in its first four outings.
Havre High head coach Mark West believes that the week off is just what his team needed after a grueling start to the season.
"The main thing we have needed is some rest," West said. "The break came at a good time for us because we were definitely tired. It also gave us some time to get our football kids in Steve Heberly and Justin Kegel fresh."
Despite the rest, the Ponies will be without Kegel tonight, as well as sophomore reserve Marc Mariani. Both players missed signifigant practice time over the holiday's due to family obligations. However, Havre will get back senior forward Eric Ward, who has not played since the first game of the season after suffering an injury to his face against Livingston.
"We had a couple of guys who have been gone," West said. "But getting Eric Ward back will be a huge lift for us. I think he is really anxious to get back on the floor."
As for tonight, West believes the matchup with the Beeters will be a good test for his Ponies coming off of the break.
"We definitely have a rivalry with Chinook," West said. "I think this is a good time to play them, and I think both teams are ready to play."
The Beeters come to Havre with a 1-5 record this season. Their only win came three weeks ago against the Cascade Badgers. Despite their record, West thinks that Chinook will present a stern challenge for his Ponies.
"Any time you play a rival, it makes for a tough game," West said. "I am sure they are going to be fired up to play us, and we are going to have to play at a very high level tonight."
Chinook is led by sharp shooting guard Casey Schmitt, who comes in as the Beeters leading scorer. Matt Roseberry, Kellan Broadhead, Dillon Davies and Micheal Mereness are also very solid players. West feels that containing Schmitt and handling Chinook in the paint will be key tonight.
"I think if we can shut down Casey Schmitt, we will be successful because he is a great shooter," West said. "We also have to rebound well tonight because we have been struggling in that area lately."
The Ponies will have a day of rest after the Chinook contest and will then host the Malta Mustangs on Saturday. West thinks that these two games are crucial.
"We have had a great week of practice and our kids are really fired up to play this weekend," West said. "Hopefully we can play well and pick up a couple of big wins."
Tonight's battle between Havre and Chinook is slated to tipoff at 7:30 p.m. at the Havre High Gymnasium. The game can be heard locally on 101.3 KRYK-FM.