By Ryan Divish
For the second time this season, the Havre High boys basketball team's season was in jeopardy of spiraling out of control. Coming off of a blowout loss to the CMR Rustlers on Thursday night, the Ponies had their proverbial backs against the wall. But they responded by picking up a key Central A Conference win over the Lewistown Eagles, 64-52, in front of a near-capacity crowd at the Havre High gymnasium.
It was the second time this year that the Ponies were in the midst of a three-game losing streak and the second time they snapped that streak by knocking off a top team.
Havre head coach Mark West drew a lot of similarities to this game and the Ponies' impressive win over Great Falls High, but hopes that his team responds to this win a little more positively.
"This is a really big win for us because we knew that we really need this for the conference standings," West said. "But this time we need to build on this. After the win over Great Falls High, I think we relaxed a little. This time it needs to be a little more low key and we need to stay focused on getting better."
A difference between this Pony victory and the last game against Lewistown was a balanced scoring attack led by a season-high 21 points from senior center Ryan Lusin.
"Ryan Lusin had a big night inside for us and that was key to get him going," West said.
Lusin set the tone early for the Ponies, scoring two baskets in the first 30 seconds of the contest, but the Eagles responded to Lusin's start by going on a 9-0 run in less than a minute's time behind two quick three-pointers from Nate Evans.
However, the Ponies showed early that they weren't going to let Lewistown push them around in their own house. They went on an 11-1 run punctuated by a three-pointer from Trent Normandy to take a 16-15 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Havre continued to go into Lusin in the second period and also kept its hold on the momentum as the team went on a 12-1 run in the middle of the quarter that led to a 32-25 halftime lead.
"We were feeling pretty confident at the half," West said. "We were defending the post very well and we stood up to their pressure a lot better this game. We just needed to make sure we stayed focused because we knew Lewistown would make a run at us."
The Eagles proved West right as they started the third quarter with an 8-2 run behind three-pointers from Evans and Derek Taylor. However, the Ponies weathered that storm and managed to keep the contest tied at 43 going into the final stanza.
In the final period, it wouldn't take the Ponies long to put the contest away as they went on a 12-0 run to up their lead to 11 points at 58-47 with less than two minutes to play. Normandy iced the win by going 7-8 from the free-throw line in the last minute of the contest.
To go along with Lusin's 21 points, the Ponies got 18 points from Cory Brothers and 12 from Normandy. West says the balanced scoring was a definitive key to Havre's success against the Eagles.
"It was nice to have a balanced attack because that is something we have been lacking recently," West said. "But I think the big key was that our whole team came out and played great defense. We took away the three-point shot for the most part."
The Eagles (9-5) got 17 points from Evans, including four threes, while Taylor added 16 in the losing effort.
On Thursday night, the Ponies didn't have the same fortune as they were drubbed by the CMR Rustlers for the second time this season, 90-48, at the CMR Fieldhouse.
Havre fell behind 17-0 in the first period and the Rustlers never let up on them. The Rustlers used another big 13-0 run in the second quarter to take a 50-29 lead into halftime. They then outscored the Ponies 40-19 in the second half en route to the easy victory.
In the win, CMR got a game-high 20 points from Royce Fulp and 13 from Zach Danelson. Havre was paced by Lusin with 13 points, Justin Kegel had 12 points and Brothers chipped in with 11.
The Ponies are now 6-7 on the season and they will have another rigorous weekend as they travel to Malta on Thursday night and return home on Friday to host the Browning Indians.