By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sportsemail@example.com
Sometimes a 10-day layoff can be a bad thing for a basketball team. The lack of games sometimes makes a team come out flat and rusty. However, Havre High head boys basketball coach Mark West believed that his team used the Christmas break to get healthy and rested.
The rest paid off Friday night as the Ponies came out ready and recharged in the first quarter of a 65-59 Central A Conference win in Browning.
The Ponies grabbed an early lead over the Indians, only to see it slip away late in the period. However, Havre bounced back in the second quarter, scoring 21 points to Browning's 15 to take a 35-32 halftime lead.
"I really liked the way we started the game," West said. "We didn't come out flat and our effort was really good in the first half Friday night.
"But the third quarter is where we really got going," West added. "We got a lead and then Patch Wirtzberger came in and gave us some good minutes off the bench. I thought we really took control of the game from there."
Indeed, the Ponies went on a good run midway through the third period and carried into the fourth quarter. Browning rallied from seven points down late in the contest, but couldn't overcome the Havre deficit.
Cory Brothers led the way for Havre with a game-high 20 points while Wirtzberger added 10 points off the bench. Carl Ingraham led Browning with 19 points, while Andrew Sellers and Ryan Running Crane added 11 points apiece.
If the Ponies got off to a good start on Friday night, Saturday night's first quarter against Malta at the Havre High gymnasium was anything but.
Havre started the game with major shooting woes, while the Mustangs found success going inside early to center Ryan Kovach. By the time the first eight minutes of the game came to end, Havre found itself in a 15-7 hole.
The second quarter didn't go much better for either team. The two teams combined to score 20 points in the period. The Ponies were forced to go through much of the quarter without junior point guard Marc Mariani, who picked up his third foul at the 5:07 mark. The bright spot of the first half for Havre came at the buzzer as Brothers drilled a floating shot in the lane to pull Havre within three points at 21-18 at halftime.
"Obviously we didn't play very well in the first half," West said. "Unlike in Browning, we came out really flat. Malta was really patient on offense and they were able to get some good shots against us."
Malta also got the second half off to a good start as Kovach nailed a turnaround jumper to start the third quarter. However, it did not take the Ponies long to get themselves on track as Brothers began to heat up. He drilled a three-pointer to tie the game at 23-23, which started Havre off on a 7-0 run that gave the Ponies the lead for good.
Brothers nailed another trey at the 3:31 mark that sent Havre on another run. The Ponies reeled off 12 unanswered points to take a 37-32 lead heading into the final quarter. Brothers accounted for 15 of Havre's 19 points in the third period.
The Ponies did not hold back in the fourth quarter. Brothers continued to score at will and Havre's full-court press forced the Mustangs' 12 second-half turnovers as Havre closed the contest on a 15-3 run for a 62-41 win.
"I really liked how we played in the second half tonight," West said. "Our intensity on defense was really good and I thought we were able to force Malta to do some things they didn't want to do. They weren't as patient on offense in the second half and we took advantage of that and we were able to get control of the game."
Brothers finished with a season-high 36 points, with 27 of those points coming in the second half. Tyler Hedalen chipped in with 11 points for the Ponies.
"It was nice to see Cory get going in the second half," West said. "He has been struggling with his shot, but he always plays hard every game. It was good to see him start to get on track tonight."
John Galt led the way for the Mustangs with nine points and Kovach added eight points in the losing effort. The Mustangs are now 4-3 on the season.
With the two wins this weekend, the Ponies' record is 7-2 as they reach the halfway point of their schedule.
"These were two very important wins because we needed to get the rest of our season off to a good start," West said. "I thought the win in Browning was big because that is always a tough place to play and it is nice to come out of there with a win.
"We definitely have some work to do and we need to keep getting better as a basketball team," West added. "But getting two wins this weekend was definitely a good start."
Havre will be back in action Thursday when the team travels to Great Falls to take on the Great Falls High Bison. The game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. at the Bison Fieldhouse.
Havre 65, Browning 59
Havre 14 21 13 17 - 65
Browning 17 15 16 11 - 59
Havre - Patrick Wirtzberger 10, Marc Mariani 3, Trent Normandy 6, Cory Brothers 20, Jeremy Giardina 9, Tyler Hedalen 9, Bret Magelssen 2, Jared Weigel 6. Totals: 22 18-28.
Browning - Sage Momberg 2, Scott Raining Bird 5, Karl Ingraham 19, Andrew Sellers 11, Jared Wolftail 2, Nolan Conway 9, Ryan Running Crane 11. Totals: 24 10-14.
Total fouls: Havre 17, Browning 25. Fouled out: Raining Bird, Hedalen. Technical fouls: Hedalen. Three-point goals: Normandy 1, Brothers 2, Sellers 1.
Havre 62, Malta 41
Malta 15 6 11 9 - 41
Havre 7 11 19 25 - 62
Malta - Tyler Sjostrom 5, John Galt 9, Bo Stiles 5, Shaun Carnahan 7, Bryan Shores 5, Ryan Kovach 8, Scott Lindgren 2. Totals: 15 8-14.
Havre - Patrick Wirtzberger 2, Marc Mariani 3, Trent Normandy 2, Cory Brothers 36, Tyler Hedalen 11, Bret Magelssen 6, Jared Weigel 2. Totals: 25 9-19.
Total fouls: Malta 18, Havre 17. Fouled out: Kovach. Three-point goals: Brothers 3, Stiles 1, Carnahan 1, Shores 1.