By George Ferguson
Sometimes the basket seems like it has a big lid on it. And for a good portion of Thursday night's game between the Havre Blue Ponies and Chinook Sugarbeeters it seemed as if there was a gigantic lid on the basket. Despite the lid, the Ponies knocked off the Beeters 44-31 at the Havre High School gymnasium.
"It was just one of those nights where the shots were not falling," said Havre High head coach Dennis Murphy. "We came out and really were not sharp offensively, but (Chinook) really couldn't seem to make anything either."
The worst of both teams' struggles came in the first quarter where the Ponies managed just six points while the Beeters were held to five.
Things didn't get a whole lot better for either team in the second period. Chinook's scoring drought lasted just three minutes after a Brittany Buhmann layup at the 5:20 mark.
Meanwhile, the Ponies snapped their shooting woes when freshman Kelsey Evans drilled a three-pointer at the 4:40 mark. It was the Ponies' first field goal in more than seven minutes.
Evans sparked the dormant Pony offense as she drilled another three, which was followed by another three-pointer by Rylee O'Connell just before the half ended. The mini-three-point barrage by the two Havre reserves gave the Ponies an 18-14 cushion at the intermission.
"I was really pleased with the play of Kelsey, Rylee and Justine Erhard," Murphy said. "They came off the bench and gave us some scoring in the first half when we really needed it."
With a four-point lead to start the second half, the Ponies came out and began to reassert themselves both offensively and defensively. Carrie Flatau, who had been bottled up by a well-planned Chinook zone defense in the first half, started to score in the third period. Havre began to slowly pull away, aided by a plethora of missed layups by the Beeters.
As the quarter drew to a close, the Ponies outscored the Beeters 11-4 to grab a commanding 29-18 lead.
The Ponies continued to get solid scoring in the final stanza as they increased their lead to as many as 19 points. An 8-0 run in the game's final minute by the Beeters cut the final deficit to 13 at 44-31.
"I thought we came out a lot stronger in the second half," Murphy said. "I really liked our effort and the kids played hard. We finished the game pretty strong."
Leading the way for the Ponies was Carrie Flatau as she scored a game-high 14 points. Evans was the next highest scorer for the Ponies with six while O'Connell, Steph Flatau and Renessa Briere all chipped in with five points apiece.
The Beeters got eight points from Whitney Lybeck. Tiffany Cuerth and Brittany Buhmann each added seven points in the losing effort.
With the loss to Havre, the Beeters fell to 3-13 on the season. They have two games left in the regular season before next weekend's District 2B tournament. Tonight, Chinook will host Poplar for its final home game of the season and will travel to Fort Benton on Saturday night.
The Ponies improved to 8-9 overall and Murphy was glad to escape the rivalry game with a victory.
"These are the kind of games that make me nervous," Murphy said. "Anytime you play a team that you have beaten once, they come back at you with nothing to lose.
"We are just happy to take this win and move on," Murphy added. "But you have to give a lot of credit to the kids from Chinook. They came here and played us very hard for 32 minutes tonight."
The Ponies will finish their regular season tonight when they host the Great Falls High Bison at 7:30 p.m. at the Havre High gymnasium.