By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sports/ email@example.com
After a easy win over the Chinook Sugarbeeters last Saturday night in its season opener, the Havre High boys basketball team will now do something they have never done before - play regular season Central A conference games against Belgrade and Livingston.
The Ponies (1-0) open their 2004 conference schedule on the road tonight when they visit Belgrade at 4 p.m. On Saturday night Havre will be in Livingston to take on the Rangers at 7:30 p.m.
Due to the realignment of Class A this season, the Central A conference will be playing a full regular season conference schedule and has done away with the Krause Kount points system.
That means Havre's difficult regional schedule won't count against them in the Central A standings or divisional tournament seeding.
It is a system that new HHS head coach John Barnhorst is excited about, but at the same time he knows that head-to-head match-ups against conference rivals will make every night very important throughout the season.
"With the new schedule, it is going to create some very big games throughout the season," Barnhorst said. "I like it, though, because teams will have a better idea of where they will stand at the end of the season."
Tonight's trip to Belgrade will be a true early season test for the Ponies. Belgrade is picked by many to contend with Havre for the Central A crown this season.
The Panthers did lose a couple of key players from last year's team that finished runner-up to Libby at the Class A state tournament. The Panthers lost in the state title game in triple-overtime. Despite returning some solid young players, the Panthers will sorely miss all-state point guard Caleb Salisbury.
"I think Belgrade will have a very good team again this season," Barnhorst said. "It is early, so it is tough to scout anybody, but we have a pretty good idea of everybody's personnel.
"Belgrade always plays solid fundamental basketball and they are very well-coached," he added.
The Panthers enter tonight's home game with the Ponies at 2-0 on the season. Last weekend they beat Laurel 49-40 and they outlasted Glendive 61-60. Meanwhile, Livingston is 0-2 on the year. They lost to Glendive last Friday 71-48 and on Saturday they were blown out by Buffalo, Wyo., 77-44.
"We know that these are two very important games even though it is early in the season," Barnhorst said. "Because they are conference games there will be a lot of importance on every game we play."
Havre will tip off against Belgrade at the Belgrade Special Events Center at 4 p.m. today. Saturday night the Ponies will be in Livingston to take on the Rangers at 7:30 p.m.