By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sportsemail@example.com
It has been 11 years since a Havre high boys basketball team could call themselves divisional champions. But the wait is now over.
The Havre Blue Ponies put together a three-game stretch of nearly perfect basketball on their way to capturing the 2004 Central A divisional championship this weekend at the Butte Civic Center in Butte.
On Friday night, the Ponies knocked off third-seeded Dillon, 66-48 in the semifinals and Saturday night the Ponies completed their quest for the divisional title with a 60-46 thumping of top-seeded Belgrade.
"This was a great weekend for our team," said an elated HHS head coach Mark West. "The kids played really well and they played together. We just played great basketball all weekend and it led to a lot of success."
"I am really happy for all these kids because they have worked hard to get to this point," West added. "But I am especially happy for our seniors because they have waited a long time for this. Cory Brothers has been a part of this team for four years and he has been a great player for a long time. But now he can say he is a champion. That is pretty special."
One of the keys to Havre's success this weekend, according to West, was patience and poise and it showed in the Friday's semfinal win over Dillon.
Havre jumped out to an early 10-2 lead and upped that lead to 13 points at halftime, 34-21. Even though the Ponies were playing good basketball at the time of intermission, West knew that the Beavers would make a run in the second half. He credited his team for being composed and weathering the Dillon storm.
"Dillon is a good basketball team and we knew they weren't out of it," West said. "But we felt good about how we were playing defense. In the second half, we just kept up that defensive intensity. We were able to keep them from getting into a flow offensively and we were able to keep our lead."
Despite a brief 8-1 run by Dillon in the third period, the two teams played to a 17-17 tie in the quarter. In the fourth quarter, Havre was able to ice the game at the free-throw line and advance to Saturday night's title game against Belgrade.
"I don't know if we could have played any better than we played against Dillon," West said. "We defended them well, we rebounded the ball great, we executed our offense and we only missed one free throw. It was just a great effort by our whole team."
Brothers led the way for the Ponies with a game-high 18 points in the semifinal win. Sophomore Jeremy Giardina chipped in with 11 points and Trent Normandy added nine - all on three pointers. Chris Dyk paced the Beavers with 15 points.
On Saturday night, the Ponies picked up right where they left off against Dillon. Havre raced out to an early 10-point lead on Belgrade and never really looked back, taking a 31-23 lead. Havre put the pedal down on the Panthers in the third quarter as they ripped off 10-unanswered points to put the contest out of reach.
Brothers scored a game-high 24 points, including a pair of spectacular dunks. Juniors Marc Mariani and Tyler Hedalen chipped in with 12 and 11 points, respectively. Belgrade got 13 points from Caleb Salsbury and Mike Bell added 10 in the losing effort.
"Cory had a tremendous tournament," West said. "He was really patient offensively and he was our key guy defensively. He shut down two of the best players in the tournament in Caleb Salsbury and Torrey Thomas. He did a great job all weekend long.
"Marc Mariani was also a big key to our success," West added. "He just played under control all weekend. He played great defense and he did a great job running the team."
Overall, West believes that this was just one of those weekends where everything came together for his basketball team and the result was a divisional championship.
"The way we played defensively was key this weekend," West said. "We were able to play with a lead. Everybody on our team contributed this weekend and everyone played great. We got great leadership from our seniors and the rest of the team just fed off of it."
Havre High last won a divisional title in 1993. The Ponies will prepare to head to the Class A state tournament in two weeks as a top seed. The Class A state tournament will tip off on Feb. 25 in Belgrade where the Ponies will open the against the defending Class A state champion Colombia Falls Wildcats.
Havre 66, Dillon 48 (sf)
Havre 21 13 17 15 - 66
Dillon 12 9 17 10 - 48
Havre - Patrick Wirtzberger 1-1 2-2 5, Marc Mariani 2-5 0-0 5, Trent Normandy 3-4 0-0 9, Cory Brothers 5-12 7-7 18, Jeremy Giardina 3-4 4-4 11, Tyler Hedalen 2-3 3-4 7, Bret Magelssen 2-2 0-0 4, Jared Weigel 3-4 0-0 7. Totals 21-35 16-17.
Dillon - Thatcher Taylor 0-4 1-2 1, Seth Probst 5-12 1-1 13, Kevin Staley 1-4 0-0 2, Torrey Thomas 4-11 2-3 10, John Ori 0-1 0-0 0, Ryan Bowden 1- 0-0 2, Chris Dyk 6-8 3-4 15, Doug Gibbons 2-6 1-2 5. Totals 19-47 8-12.
Three-point goals - HAV 8-17 (Normandy 3-4, Wirtzberger 1-1, Mariani 1-2, Giardina 1-2, Weigel 1-2, Brothers1-6), DIL 2-15 (Probst 2-7). Rebounds - HAV 22 (four tied with 4), DIL 18 (Dyk 9). Assists - HAV 11 (Mariani 7), DIL 9 (Dyk 3). Steals - HAV 10 (Brothers 3), DIL 10 (Probst 4). Turnovers - HAV 12, DIL 16. Total fouls - HAV 16, DIL 17. Fouled out - Gibbons.
Havre 60, Belgrade 46 (1st)
Havre 18 13 15 14 - 60
Belgrade 8 15 8 15 - 46
Havre - Patrick Wirtzberger 0-0 0-0 0, Marc Mariani 5-7 2-3 12, Trent Normandy 0-1 0-0 0, Cory Brothers 8-18 4-8 24, Gary Wagner 0-1 0-0 0, Jeremy Giardina 0-2 1-2 1, Tyler Hedalen 4-8 3-4 11, Bret Magelssen 1-2 3-4 5, Jared Weigel 3-4 1-1 7, Tyson Parman 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 21-44 14-22 60.
Belgrade - Kraig Rieger 1-5 2-2 5, Rick Brown 0-0 0-1 0, Caleb Salsbury 4-10 4-8 13, Mike Bell 4-11 2-3 10, Chris Harrington 1-7 0-0 2, Rex Martin 3-5 2-2 8, Zach Halgren 4-8 0-0 8. Totals 17-46 10-16 46.
Three-point goals - HAV 4-13 (Brothers 4-10), BEL 2-12 (Rieger 1-4, Salsbury 1-4). Rebounds - HAV 24 (Brothers 5), BEL 23 (Harrington 7). Assists - HAV 12 (Mariani 6, Hedalen 4), BEL 6 (two tied with 2). Steals - HAV 8 (three tied with two), BEL 6 (two tied with 2). Blocks - HAV 2 (Magelssen 2), BEL 0. Turnovers - HAV 8, BEL 10. Total fouls - HAV 19, BEL 19. Fouled out - none.