By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sports/ email@example.com
The Havre High girls basketball team couldn't have started the season much better. Any time you open with a pair of decisive wins it's a good thing. It wasn't perfection, but the Ponies played well above head coach Dennis Murphy's expectations.
The Blue Ponies pounded Central A foes Belgrade and Anaconda in consecutive days last weekend, which left Murphy not only happy with the two victories, but also with how his team played to earn those two victories.
"There were two things that I really liked about the way we played last weekend," Murphy said. "I loved our effort. The girls played really hard the entire game both days.
"I was also really pleased with how well they played together," Murphy added. "We passed the ball and found the open man better than we have as a team in a very long time. It was really enjoyable to watch."
Havre will shift its attention from the Class A ranks to the nearby District 2B as the Ponies prepare to take on the Harlem Wildcats tonight in Harlem. Friday night Havre will renew its intense rivalry with the Chinook Sugarbeeters as the Ponies return home to the Blue Pony Gymnasium for the first time this season.
Both of the Blue Ponies' opponents this weekend are under the direction of new head coaches. The Wildcats are headed by Bum Stiffarm, who has been an assistant on the Harlem boys staff for the last couple of seasons. Harlem enters this weekend's games at 0-2 on the young season after suffering losses to St. Labre and Forsyth.
Harlem also comes in with a very young team this season led by point guard Olivia Main. Main is the top returning scorer from a Harlem team that struggled to find their way through most of last season. Alicia Shields is another Wildcat holdover from last season and will be counted on to score for the Wildcats in 2003-04.
"Harlem has a lot of young but talented players that we have watched come through their junior high program," Murphy said. "I think that coach Stiffarm will do a good job with these kids because he has been part of their program and that will bring some continuity to their team. I expect that they will play us very hard this weekend."
Meanwhile, the Chinook Sugarbeeters are also trying to find their way as a team under new head coach Mark Roseberry. Roseberry has his Beeters 1-1 on the season after a split of their first two games this past weekend. The Beeters opened the season with a solid win over District 2B rival Plentywood, while losing a close battle to 2B power Wolf Point on Saturday night.
The Beeters return a wealth of size and talent this season, led by the likes of Kelsey Crampton and Whitney Lybeck, Monica Thackeray, Crystal Roseberry and Tiffany Cuerth also help to form a solid nucleus of veteran talent this season.
"Chinook has a very successful group of talented and athletic kids," Murphy said. "This is the first time I can remember that they are going to give us some size difficulties.
"Chinook is definitely a team that we will have to be well prepared for and ready to play Friday night."
Murphy also acknowledges the fact that despite the difference in classification, the Beeters are one of Havre's biggest rivals each and every season.
"I think that when Chinook and Havre play, it sometimes gets so intense because of the rivalry that neither team plays its best basketball," Murphy said. "Last season both games were hard fought, close games but they were somewhat ugly basketball games.
"I expect that Chinook will be ready to play and excited about coming down here Friday night. It should be a very tough game for us."
Adding to the intensity of the rivalry will also be a familiar face to Beeter fans in a new uniform. Blue Pony senior Jolene Fuzesy gave the Beeters fits last season while playing for Malta. She now will face them for the first time as a member of the Havre High team.
Fuzesy comes into this weekend's games off to a blazing start in her Blue Pony career. In two games last weekend, she scored a combined 60 points and added 19 rebounds. Fuzesy also got help from sophomore standout Steph Flatau and junior point guard Amy McLain.
Despite how well the Ponies played last weekend, Murphy admits his team will have to fight through some adversity this weekend if it is to continue to grow as a basketball team.
"We are fighting a lot of illness on our team right now," Murphy said. "It is something you can't avoid on a basketball team when someone gets sick. Some of our kids are very tired physically, but it is something we will just have to get through.
"We just want to go out and continue to do the things we are doing well and try to get better at we we're not doing so well. Hopefully, we can get a couple of more wins."
Tonight's game between Harlem and Havre is set to tip off at 7:30 p.m. in Harlem and can be heard on 610 KOJM-AM. The game between the Ponies and Beeters is also slated to tipoff at 7:30 p.m. on Friday night at the Havre High Gymnasium and can be heard on 610 KOJM-AM.