By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sportsemail@example.com
After a season of ups and downs and heavy losses to graduation, it was hard to know what to expect from the Havre High girls basketball team this season. But the Ponies and veteran head coach Dennis Murphy served notice that they may be on their way back to being a Class A power as they captured two convincing wins at the Central A Tipoff Tournament in Browning.
The Ponies routed Belgrade 67-47 on Friday afternoon and followed that up with a 65-47 pounding of the upstart Anaconda Copperheads on Saturday.
While Murphy isn't ready to prognosticate more success just yet, he did like what he saw out of his young team in its first two games of the season.
"I was really pleased with how we played this weekend," Murphy said. "We were very good in some areas and those things were good enough to get two good wins.
"I liked how we played offensively, and the girls' effort the whole weekend was tremendous," Murphy added. "We also know that we have to get better in some areas, particularly on defense where we weren't so good at times. But overall, I am happy with how we played as a team and we are glad to pick up two wins."
On Friday, Havre came out shooting the ball very well against Belgrade, which resulted in a 22-point first quarter. By the time halftime rolled around, Havre had built a 40-21 lead and the Panthers could not recover in the second half.
Senior transfer Jolene Fuzesy scored a game-high 25 points and sophomore Steph Flatau added 21 in the winning effort.
"I was really happy with how well we came out shooting the ball," Murphy said. "We also forced 35 turnovers and Belgrade never got into their offense. I liked our effort and our intensity."
Saturday afternoon, the Ponies squared off against an up-and-coming Anaconda team that beat them at last year's Central A divisional tournament. According to Murphy, Havre did not get off to the same hot start that served the team so well a night earlier.
The Ponies trailed the Copperheads 29-23 at halftime, but then came out on fire in the second half. Havre took the lead midway through the third period en route to a 20-point quarter. Havre also outscored the Copperheads 22-8 in the finals stanza to win going away.
"We did not play well at all in the first half on Saturday," Murphy said. "The kids fought really hard and stayed in it. We were only down six at the half and it could have been much worse.
"But in the second half, the whole team came out and played really well," Murphy added. "We moved the ball better and we shot the ball much better. We were also able to get to the free-throw line and that helped us out as well. It was a great team effort in the second half."
Fuzesy scored a game-high 35 points in the win, while senior Alicia Overcast added 12 points. Amy McLain also had a good weekend with 14 assists in two games and Fuzesy had 19 rebounds in two games.
"This was a good weekend in a lot of ways for us," Murphy said. "We got great minutes from all of the girls on our bench and we played really good basketball in some stretches. Again, we need to get better in some areas and some of our weaknesses were definitely exposed. But the good thing is that we have a lot of season to continue to grow and get better as a basketball team."
The Ponies will again take to the road on Thursday night when they travel to Harlem. The Ponies will play their first home game of the season on Friday night when they host archrival Chinook.
Havre 67, Belgrade 47
Havre 22 18 17 10 - 67
Belgrade 14 7 16 10 - 47
Havre - Alicia Overcast 4, Amy McLain 4, Steph Flatau 21, Kelsey Evans 4, Alexa Lipp 2, Justine Erhard 5, Jolene Fuzesy 25, Rebecca Hilliard 2.
Belgrade - Collette Russell 2, Sarah Brown 1, Rachel Frost 2, Elizabeth Coughlin 2, Adrienne Diles 11, Keri Hein 4, Amy Bolen 2, Hannah Benson 10, Jennifer Smith 11, Jamie Janikula 2.
Havre 65, Anaconda 47
Havre 11 12 20 22 - 65
Anaconda 14 15 10 8 - 47
Havre - Alicia Overcast 12, Steph Flatau 7, Kacy Herron 3, Alexa Lipp 6, Jolene Fuzesy 35, Whitney Barnekoff 2.
Anaconda - Dani Dulany 4, Cara Laslovich 2, Courtney Austin 11, Heather Jones 4, Autumn Domitovich 10, Tamie Brunell 8, Kalista Kopp 2, Tessa Spear 2, Ayla Marjamaa 4.