By George Ferguson
All the Havre High girls basketball team can do is go out and play. With two remaining games - both at home - the Ponies have little or no control over where they will be seeded in next week's Central A divisional tournament in Butte.
Havre is currently sitting in fifth place in the ultra-competitive Central A with a 7-9 record. It's a place where head coach Dennis Murphy would like to stay, but he says that matter is out of his team's hands.
This weekend's results in the conference will offer a multitude of scenarios regarding Havre's tournament destiny. The Ponies could do anything from stay in fifth place or drop all the way to seventh when it is all said and done.
"We will know late Friday night where we finish," Murphy said. "We really aren't in control of our own destiny, so all we can do is go out and play well against Chinook and Great Falls High and see what happens."
Despite not having much say in where they will be seeded, Murphy still wants his team to finish this season on a positive note.
The Ponies will certainly be focused tonight when they host the Chinook Sugarbeeters. Chinook brings a 3-12 record into the Havre High gymnasium and has been struggling as of late. However, Murphy knows that when the rival Beeters come to town, anything can happen.
"When Chinook and Havre play, you never know what to expect," Murphy said. "Chinook has been struggling this season, but we are going to play this game as if they are the best team we will see all season."
According to Murphy, the Beeters will bring a fair amount of confidence to Havre tonight because of how they finished the first meeting with Havre back on Jan. 4th. In that contest, the Ponies downed the Beeters 66-45 by jumping out to a huge lead early, but Chinook played solidly in the second half.
"We started the game off really well against Chinook," Murphy said. "But they played us even in the second half, so I am sure they understand that they can play with us."
On Friday night, Havre will welcome the Great Falls High Bison to town for senior night. The Ponies will honor seniors Carrie Flatau, Renessa Briere, Sara Suek, Jeanna McPherson and Brook Schwan.
The Bison defeated Havre, 61-46, on Jan. 9, but since that time they have suffered a major blow. Last Saturday, the fourth-ranked Bison (11-5) lost senior guard Michela Schmitz to a torn meniscus in the first minute of a game with Billings West.
Schmitz, who was the leading scorer in Class AA, is reportedly finished with her high school basketball career due to the injury. But she should be ready to resume her playing career next fall at the University of Montana.
"They suffered a very tough break losing Schmitz," Murphy said. "She is a tremendous scorer, but they have replaced her with Sarah Stubbs who has been playing mostly in junior varsity games all season and she is a tremendous player as well. They still have some very good talent that was around Michela."
Indeed, Stubbs, who transferred to Great Falls High from CMR, stepped in to score 31 points in GFH's loss to Billings West after Schmitz suffered the injury to her knee.
"This is a game that we are going to have to play at a very high level," Murphy said. "In the last game against Great Falls, we had great looks at the basket and the shots just didn't fall. If we are going to play with them we are going to have to knock down those good looks because of the matchup zone that they play. You just have to score from the outside against them."
Despite the fact that the Bison are one of Class AA's best teams, Murphy wants to make sure his team continues to play at the high level it has played over the course of the last few games, regardless of whether they beat the Bison or not.
"I want to see the girls come out and play really well more than anything," Murphy said. "We have been building up to this all season and I think we are really playing pretty well right now. That is what you need when you get to tournament time.
"Even though we lost to Browning on Friday night, I thought we played really well and we played a great game against Malta," Murphy added. "I think the key is that we have gotten some kids to really raise the level of their play. If we can just get a couple more to do the same, we are going to be a very tough team when we get to divisionals."
Tonight's contest between the Ponies and Beeters is slated to get underway at 7:30 p.m. Friday night's game with the Bison will also begin at 7:30 p.m.