By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sportsemail@example.com
If the Anaconda Copperheads girls basketball team was hot coming into the Central A girls divisional basketball tournament, then the Havre Blue Ponies must have been absolutely on fire.
The Ponies used a 16-0 run in the third quarter to blow past the Copperheads 66-44 in first-round action of the Central A tournament Thursday night at the Havre High gymnasium.
"I was really pleased with the way we played tonight," said HHS veteran head coach Dennis Murphy. "Our effort was good tonight and I thought we played OK for the most part."
The game between Havre and Anaconda was billed as a meeting of exact opposites. The Ponies finished first in the Central A in team offense and the Copperheads were sixth. Conversely, Anaconda finished the season second in the league in defense while Havre finished seventh.
In the first quarter, the two teams showed signs that they were both going to score points as they traded baskets throughout the opening eight minutes of the contest.
Havre's Jolene Fuzesy got off to a good start by driving to the lane and getting to the free-throw line to stake her team to an early lead. But the Copperheads were also getting work done inside as they got six points from 5-11 center Ayla Marjamaa, who kept Anaconda within striking distance at the end of the first period, as the Ponies' lead was just four points, 16-12.
Fuzesy opened the second quarter with a three-pointer and minutes later Alexa Lipp drilled a trey as well, to give the Ponies an eight-point lead at 22-14.
The Copperheads continued to go inside as they scored back-to-back buckets to pull back within four points.
But the three's kept coming for Havre. After Murphy called a quick timeout, Fuzesy drilled a three-pointer and Justine Erhard drilled a long three of her own on the Ponies' ensuing possession. Steph Flatau followed that flurry with a putback inside that capped off a 10-0 run by the Ponies.
Marjamaa finally stopped the bleeding with an easy score inside, but Flatau banged home one more three-pointer just before the halftime buzzer to give Havre a very comfortable 37-22 lead.
"Offensively, I thought we played pretty well, especially in the second quarter," Murphy said. "They played us man early and we were able to go to the basket early and we got to the foul-line a lot. It was nice to get our inside game going before we started to shoot from the perimeter."
The 15-point halftime lead Havre held was as close as Anaconda would get to the Ponies the rest of the night. Alicia Overcast and Flatau opened the third period with back-to-back layups as Havre ripped off 16-unanswered points at the end of the quarter to bury the Copperheads for good. Anaconda managed to outscore the Ponies' second unit in the fourth quarter 12-9, but it was far of too little and much too late.
"One of the big things that I really liked about this game is that we were able to adjust to what they were doing to hurt us in the first half," Murphy said. "Marjamaa was getting good position and she was getting way too deep. But Rebecca Hilliard did a great job of post defense in the second half and we were able to take the inside game away from them."
Fuzesy scored a game-high 28 points, including four three-pointers, in just three quarters of duty to lead Havre. She also grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds. Flatau added 12 points and Lipp chipped in with 11.
Christina Laslovich paced Anaconda with nine points and Marjamaa and Cara Laslovich chipped in with eight points apiece. With the win the Ponies advance to tonight's semifinal round where they will face Lewistown. The Copperheads (10-9) will face the Belgrade Panthers at 2 p.m. today in loser-out action.
Lewistown 66, Belgrade 29
In the first game of the night session, the top-seeded Lewistown Eagles took care of business with a 66-29 thrashing of eighth-seeded Belgrade. Both teams played fairly sloppy basketball in the first quarter, allowing the Panthers were able to keep things close as the Eagles held a 17-8 lead.
The turnover troubles for both squads continued in the second quarter, but the Eagles were able to take advantage of Belgrade's shooting difficulties and build a 32-18 lead at halftime.
Despite the big lead, Lewistown head coach Troy Hudson wasn't exactly happy with his team's play in the first half.
"It was a pretty sloppy first half and we turned the ball over 11 times," Hudson said. "That is way too many turnovers. But our defensive pressure was key tonight and I think it really hurt Belgrade."
In the second half, the Eagles continued to apply a stingy defense that would never allow the Panthers to get back into the contest. Lewistown outscored Belgrade 17-6 in the third period, which was capped off by a running three pointer by Kelli Berg at the buzzer. Lewistown then tacked on 17 more points in the fourth period to make the final deficit of 37 points, 66-29.
"We played much better offensively in the second half," Hudson said. "Shaylynn Conroy and Lesly Richter did a great job of finishing inside and all of our guards like Brenda Bassett, Kayla Rettig and Sony Rogers did a great job of feeding them the ball inside."
Richter paced the Eagles with a game-high 16 points. Alira Carpenter added 14 points and Conroy and Brenda Bassett chipped in with eight points each. Jennifer Smith led the way for the Panthers with 11 points.
"It was nice to get the first game under our belt tonight," Hudson said. "But Friday night we are going to have to be a lot better on offense. We are going to have to do a much better job of taking care of the basketball if we are going to move on."
Lewistown (17-2) will now get set to face the Havre Blue Ponies (13-6) in tonight's second semifinal. The Eagles defeated Havre both times they met this season and Murphy admitted that his team will need to be much better from the opening tip if the Ponies are to have a chance in tonight's matchup.
"We need to get off to a much better start this time," Murphy said. "In both games this season, Lewistown jumped out early on us and it took us everything we had just to get back in the game. We need to get off to a good start and then we'll see what happens."
Tonight's semifinal will get under way at 8. That game will be preceded by Browning and Dillon at 6:30 p.m.
Havre 66, Anaconda 44
Havre 16 21 20 9 - 66
Anaconda 12 10 10 12 - 44
Havre - Alicia Overcast 2, Steph Flatau 12, Alexa Lipp 11, Justine Erhard 3, Keelie Solomon 1, Jolene Fuzesy 28, Whitney Barnekoff 4, Rebecca Hilliard 4.
Anaconda - Sammie Barkell 3, Dani Dulaney 1, Cara Laslovich 8, Courtney Austin 6, Christina Laslovich 9, Kristy Mehelic 1, Heather Jones 4, Autumn Domitrovich 4, Ayla Marjamaa 8.
Three-point goals: HAV 8-17 (Fuzesy 4, Lipp 2, Erhard 1, Flatau 1), ANA 2-12 (Ca. Laslovich 1, Ch. Laslovich 1). Total Rebounds: HAV 32 (Fuzesy 14, Flatau 5). ANA 32 (Marjamaa 6, Mihelic 5). Assists: HAV 14 (McLain 5), ANA 6 (Domitrovich 3). Turnovers: HAV 9, ANA 11. Total Fouls: HAV 12, ANA 15. Fouled out - none.
Lewistown 66, Belgrade 29
Belgrade 8 10 6 5 - 29
Lewistown 17 15 17 17 - 66
Belgrade - Rachel Frost 2, Liz Coughlin 2, Adrienne Dues 5, Amy Bolen 4, Hannah Benson 5, Jennifer Smith 11.
Lewistown - Brenda Bassett 8, Sonya Rogers 3, Devin Nelson 1, Shaylynn Conroy 8, Alira Carpenter 14, Kelli Berg 5, Lesly Richter 16, Lauren Tognetti 5, Laura Anderson 3, Kayla Rettig 3.
Three-point goals: LEW 4-9 (Bassett 2, Rogers 1, Rettig 1); BEL 2-5 (Benson 1, Dues 1). Rebounds: LEW 26 (Berg 7, Carpenter 4). BEL 14 (Smith 4, Bolen 4). Assists: LEW 16 (Rogers 5, Berg 5). BEL 9 (Frost 3). Turnovers: LEW 22, BEL 25. Total Fouls: LEW 9, BEL 17. Fouled out - None.