By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sportsemail@example.com
The first time the Havre High boys basketball team met the Harlem Wildcats this season, Havre High head coach Mark West called the Ponies' win - "the most complete game that they played all season."
On Thursday night in Havre, the Ponies did not play a complete game, but they did play well enough to edge the Wildcats, 56-46, in front of a near-capacity crowd at the Havre High gymnasium.
Havre benefited from an early lead and a fourth-quarter run, while playing just well enough in between to hold of the pesky Wildcats, according to West.
"I was really pleased with how we started the game and how we finished it," West said. "We had some stretches in the middle of the game where we did not play that well. But you also have to give a lot of credit to Harlem. They are a very good basketball team and they kept fighting the whole game."
After Harlem senior Ben Carrywater opened the contest with a putback off of his own miss, the Ponies went on an 8-2 run to take an early six-point lead.
However, as they would do all night, the Wildcats fought back to trail by just two points at the end of quarter, 15-13.
Havre made another surge early in the second period, this time an 8-0 run. Harlem was held scoreless for the first four minutes of the quarter until Jordan Mount broke the dry spell with a three-pointer that propelled the Wildcats on a 12-2 run to finish the half. The second quarter comeback by the Wildcats evened the score at 24-24 heading into halftime.
"I was really proud of the way the kids fought back," said Harlem head coach Kyle Bigby. "We got down by nine points and a lot of teams might have mailed it in on the road against a good team like Havre. But we kept working hard and were able to put ourselves in good position at halftime,."
Harlem's second-quarter comeback carried over to the second half as Carrywater opened the third period with a three-pointer and Kennedy drilled a turnaround jumper that gave the Wildcats a 30-26 lead. The Wildcats held on to that four-point lead through most of the third quarter.
However, the Ponies got a spark from senior Brett Magelssen as he scored two quick buckets and grabbed a couple of key rebounds during a 9-0 run that gave Havre a 38-36 lead at the end of three quarters.
In the final stanza, Magelssen and Tyler Hedalen continued to get points in the paint as Havre was able to stretch its lead to five points at 49-44 with under two minutes to go in the game.
The Ponies iced the game at the free-throw line. Havre made six out of nine free throws in the final minute of the game. And for good measure, Cory Brothers put the exclamation point on the win with a thunderous one-handed dunk as time expired.
For Bigby, turnovers, impatience and rebounds were the difference in the final score.
"We made too many little mistakes tonight," Bigby said. "We fought hard to come back, but in the second half we took some shots that were not there. Offensively, we just got impatient and you can't do that against Havre.
"We rebounded the ball really well all night," Bigby added. "But late in the fourth quarter, we fell asleep on the boards which gave Havre a couple of extra chances and they took advantage of it."
Said West: "I really liked our effort in the second half. Harlem applies a lot of pressure and they play really good defense, and our kids responded to that in the second half. We really turned our defensive pressure up a notch in the third quarter. I think we forced Harlem to take some shots they didn't want to take."
The Ponies got 15 points from Brothers and Hedalen chipped in with 13. Marc Mariani scored eight of his 10 points from the free-throw line and Magelssen added eight points off the bench.
"We got some really nice minutes from our bench tonight," West said. "Magelssen played really well in the second half and Jared Weigel and Patch Wirtzberger came in and gave us some good minutes as well."
The Wildcats were paced by Carrywater's game-high 17 points. Kennedy added 13 in the losing effort.
"I think we're getting better every game," Bigby said. "It sounds strange to say that after a loss. But Havre is a good basketball team and we played them tough tonight. Hopefully, we can keep improving because now is the time when you want to play good basketball."
Said West: "This was a good win for us because Harlem played us so physical and we have struggled with that style of play at times. We're getting close to where we need to be, but we still have some work to do."
Havre (8-3) will travel to Glasgow on Saturday night. The game between the Ponies and the Scotties will get under way at 7:30 p.m.
Havre 56, Harlem 46
Harlem 13 11 12 10 - 46
Havre 15 9 14 18 - 56
Harlem - John Young 3, Jordan Mount 8, Ben Carrywater 17, Jim Kennedy 13, Bryan Azure 5.
Havre - Marc Mariani 10, Cory Brothers 15, Jeremy Giardina 4, Tyler Hedalen 13, Brett Magelssen 8, Jared Weigel 6.
Total fouls - Havre 11, Harlem 22. Fouled out - Carrywater. Three point goals - Mount 2, Carrywater 2, Kennedy 1, Brothers 1.