By George Ferguson
Christmas break couldn't come soon enough for the Havre High school girls basketball team. The Ponies dropped their last two contests of 2002 by blowout margins. But a rested Blue Pony squad will attempt to right the ship this weekend as they play on three consecutive nights to start the new year.
The Ponies (2-4) start off the weekend tonight when they visit perennial Class B powerhouse Malta. Havre then returns home on Friday to host Central A rival Browning, and then make the 21-mile trip to Chinook on Saturday.
Havre is coming off two dismal outings two weeks ago in which they dropped a road contest to the CMR Lady Rustlers by 30 points and two nights later they were routed by Lewistown by 29 points.
Havre High head coach Dennis Murphy said that the week off has had both positives and negatives for his team.
"We have battled some illness over the break and yesterday was the first full practice we've had," Murphy said. "But one of the positive things is that we were able to really work on some things that we couldn't do when the season started."
Two areas that the Ponies absolutely needed to get better in according to Murphy - handling pressure defense and post play.
"If you look at the games we have been beaten badly in, it is obvious that we did not handle full court pressure," Murphy said. "So we have made that a point of emphasis, as well as our post defense. I have seen improvements in both areas. But we'll see how it plays out this weekend."
The Ponies will put their improvements to the test tonight when they travel to Malta. The M-Ettes are 5-1 on the season and Murphy knows they will be a tough test for his troops.
"Malta has a very talented team led by Jolene Fuzesy," Murphy said. "They also have great support personnel around her. I expect that they will be very tough tonight."
Fuzesy is a transfer from Harlem and the M-Ettes leading scorer. She also gets plenty of help from Ashley Henry, Jenny Stiles and Roshon Nordlund. Despite the quality supporting cast, Murphy thinks that containing Fuzesy will be the focal point of tonight's contest.
"She (Fuzesy) is a tremendous player and athlete," Murphy said. "I think she is one of the better players on the Hi-Line and we cannot let her have a big night. If she does we could be in trouble."
Murphy also says that if Havre is to have success in Malta his team will have to handle pressure.
"If they have been paying attention, then they are going to press us," Murphy said. "We are going to have to be able handle that pressure and we also really need to exploit their size. I think that is where we have an advantage against them. We need to make sure we take advantage of our matchups inside."
The game between the Ponies and M-Ettes will tipoff at 7:30 p.m. at the Malta High School Athletic Center. The game can be heard in Havre on 610 KOJM-AM.