By George Ferguson
It was a weekend Mark West and his Havre High boys basketball team would like to forget.
After the Ponies fell Thursday night to the Livingston Runnin' Rangers, they narrowly escaped elimination on Friday afternoon against Belgrade, before bowing out of the Central A Divisional Tournament on Saturday morning to Lewistown.
Havre was rescued by junior Cory Brothers in the final seconds of a loser-out game on Friday against the host Belgrade Panthers. But the Ponies had no heroics left on Saturday morning, as they were soundly eliminated from the tournament in a 62-44 loss to the Lewistown Eagles.
"I think the key thing that happened to us is that teams were well prepared to shut Cory down," said Havre High head coach Mark West. "When we couldn't get him going, we had trouble finding consistent offense from other people and that really hurt us - especially against a team like Lewistown."
The Ponies likely wouldn't have made it to Saturday if it weren't for a late three-pointer by Brothers against Belgrade. After squandering a late lead in the fourth quarter, the Ponies found themselves down by three points with less than 20 seconds left in the contest.
Brothers, who was held to just seven points at that point, sank a three-pointer to tie the contest. On the ensuing possession, the Panthers' Caleb Salisbury lost control of the ball and Brothers picked up the loose ball and was fouled with 5.3 seconds remaining. He calmly drilled both foul shots and the Ponies survived a final desperation heave by the Panthers to advance to Saturday morning's loser-out game with a 64-62 win.
"Cory really stepped up and hit a big shot against Belgrade," West said. "It showed that he has really developed as a player."
Havre was led for the second straight game in the tournament by Ryan Lusin, who scored 22 points on a 10-13 shooting performance from the field. Brothers finished with 12 points and Justin Kegel chipped in with eight.
On Saturday, the Ponies' tournament luck ran out. Struggling to find scoring from anyone but Lusin, the Ponies were overwhelmed by a strong offensive Lewistown attack. The Eagles raced out to an 11-7 lead after the first quarter and the Ponies continued to struggle offensively in the second quarter as Lewistown built a nine-point lead of 25-16 at the half. The Eagles then outscored the Ponies 36-29 in the second half as Havre never held the lead in the entire contest.
"Lewistown played really well on Saturday," West said. "But our problem was definitely offensive. We just couldn't find an answer offensively and we tried a lot of different things.
"Ryan Lusin stepped up and had an outstanding tournament for us, but we just couldn't seem to get the shots to fall from anyone else in all three games," West added. "It just seemed like it wasn't meant to be."
Lusin led the way for the Ponies on Saturday with 16 points while Curt Leeds chipped in with 10. Brothers was held to just two points by a perfectly executed Lewistown defensive game plan.
The Eagles went on to capture third place and earn a challenge game against Dillon tonight in Belgrade. The Beavers fell in the title game on Saturday night, 73-58, to Browning.
The Ponies' season ends with an 11-10 overall record. Despite the disappointment of not making the state A tournament, West can still find success in this season.
"We're disappointed and frustrated right now, but I think when the kids reflect on what we have done this year they are going to have some nice moments," West said. "We had some great wins and to get 11 of them this year against the level of competition we faced, night in and night out, they are going to be proud of what they have done."