By George Ferguson
It was glaringly obvious from the start of Tuesday night's game that the Havre High boys basketball team was not looking ahead to its matchup Friday with Great Falls High. The Ponies weren't looking back to their upset win over Browning, either.
Rather, they were focused on the business at hand as they opened the game with a 16-4 first quarter run and held on to defeat the Chinook Beeters, 61-48, at the Chinook High School gymnasium.
The Ponies came out in the first quarter with solid defensive pressure which only allowed the Beeters four points - a Kellen Broadhead field goal at the four minute mark, and two free-throws by Casey Schmitt - in the quarter.
Havre's offense fed off its defense as the Ponies capitalized on Chinook turnovers and converting them into easy transition baskets.
"Before the game we talked about the fact that Chinook would be ready to play tonight," said Havre head coach Mark West. "We talked about staying focused. I think that showed because we had a great start to the game."
Junior Cory Brothers got the Ponies going early with a three-point play to start the game. He finished with 11 points first period punctuated with a thunderous alley-oop dunk as the quarter was coming to an end.
West was extremely pleased with the way his team came out defensively and set the tone for the rest of the contest.
"I really liked our defensive effort at the beginning of the game," West said. "We made things pretty tough on Chinook early and that defensive pressure got us off to a nice start tonight."
A new quarter didn't bring any more offense for the Beeters. Chinook's scoring drought continued from the first quarter and would last over five minutes total.
Beeter senior Matt Roseberry finally broke the drought, drilling the first of his three three-pointers at the 3:57 mark of the quarter. That sparked an 8-0 run that got Chinook within 12 points and helped them keep the halftime deficit to 14 points at 30-16.
In the third period, Roseberry tried to keep the Beeters close as he hit two more treys, but Havre again turned up the defensive pressure, slowing Chinook's offense. The Blue Pony offense also picked up and finished the quarter on a 9-0 run that pushed their lead to 17 points at 45-28.
"I thought we had some lapses in the game," West said. "Overall, we didn't shoot the ball as well as I would've liked, but we started the second half as well as we started the first. We did a nice job of going inside and getting to the free-throw line. I liked our play from that standpoint, but I think we can still be a lot better offensively."
The fourth quarter began with the Ponies continuing to dominate the defensive end of the floor and getting scoring from reserves Bret Magelssen and Kasey Barsotti.
With time winding down in the contest, the Ponies pushed their lead to as much as 24 points. However, the Beeters would rally late to go on an 11-0 run behind the three three-pointers from Casey Schmitt. That surge made the final deficit of 13 points as Chinook outscored the Ponies 20-16 in the final eight minutes.
Brothers led all scorers with 18 points while also grabbing 10 rebounds. Justin Kegel continued to play well for the Ponies as he scored 10 points off the bench, while Marc Mariani added nine points in his first start of the season. Schmitt led the Beeters with 16 points and Roseberry added nine in the losing cause.
The loss drops the Beeters record to 3-13 overall this season. They still have two road games this weekend with Poplar and Wolf Point before next weekend's District 2B tournament in Malta.
The Ponies have won their last four games and improved their record 9-7 overall. Given the strength of the Ponies schedule and their upcoming games with Great Falls High and Browning, West was very glad to escape Chinook with a win over their rival.
"We know that Chinook loves to play Havre and the games are always tough," West said. "So we are happy to leave here with a win. Now, we'll just try to keep getting better."
The Ponies will now turn their attention to the Great Falls High Bison and the prospect of claiming the Ole Goat trophy with a win over the Bison on Friday night in Great Falls.