By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sportsemail@example.com
Senior night usually brings out the best in not only the players who are honored but also the team they play for.
That was definitely the case for the Havre High girls basketball team on Saturday night as the Ponies knocked off a very pesky Malta M-Ette team 79-65 in front of a near-capacity crowd at the Havre High gymnasium.
Before the contest, Havre honored seniors Jolene Fuzesy and Alicia Overcast.
Ironically, Fuzesy was playing her senior night against the team she played for last season. She responded by torching her old mates for 42 points on the night.
Overcast also performed well in her final regular season game in Havre, scoring 12 points and playing great defense against Malta's ultra-quick guards.
"Jolene had a huge night tonight," said HHS head coach Dennis Murphy. "She has had a tremendous season and she has been a great player to coach. I think she has also come in here and blended well with her teammates and that has really been a big key to our success.
"Alicia has also been a very important part of our program the last three years," Murphy added. "She played junior varsity for two years and this year has been her turn to contribute, and she has done that for us. She has made great strides offensively and she is a great athlete."
After Havre grabbed an early 17-14 lead in the first quarter, the two teams picked up the offensive pace the rest of the way.
Havre and Malta combined for 13 field goals in the second period, and seven of those were three-pointers. Malta got threes from freshman Kelly Pankratz as well as Roshon Nordlund and Jill King in the quarter. Havre answered with several long-range bombs from Fuzesy, Alexa Lipp and Steph Flatau. Fuzesy scored 21 points in the first half to spark the Ponies to a 40-27 lead at intermission.
In the second half, Fuzesy continued to stay hot, but Pankratz and Nordlund kept pumping in threes to keep Malta close.
King also helped the M-Ettes by getting some open baskets in the fourth quarter. Malta crept to within six points at 71-65 with less than three minutes to go. But the Ponies responded by outscoring the M-Ettes 8-1 down the stretch to hold Malta off.
"I wanted to win this game pretty badly tonight," Fuzesy said. "It has been somewhat weird playing against Malta, but I think my teammates really stepped up tonight and this was a really big win for us."
Said Overcast: "Malta has really improved since the last time we played them. So we knew we had to play really good defense and I think the whole team did that tonight. We all stepped up our game tonight."
Both players agreed that the win was gratifying.
"It was fun tonight because we played well as a team and the crowd was really into the game," Overcast said. "This was a good way to end the regular season at home."
Said Fuzesy: "Malta played us really tough tonight and they seem to be getting a lot better. This was a fun game to play because it was exciting and intense and everybody played really well."
Besides Fuzesy's big night and Overcast's contributions, the Ponies also got a solid 11 points from Alexa Lipp. Nordlund led the way for Malta with 25 points and Pankratz added 17. King chipped in with 16 points.
"Jill King was the difference tonight," Murphy said. "Her 16 points really helped them stay with us because we were shooting the ball really well.
"This was a really nice win for us because Malta is becoming a very good basketball team," Murphy added. "Their guards are tremendous players and they gave us a lot of trouble tonight."
Before the Ponies hosted Malta, they also picked up an important win over another District 2B foe. On Friday night, Havre went to Glasgow and handled the Scotties 45-33. The Ponies held a slim 20-17 lead at halftime, but a 14-4 run in the third quarter allowed them to pull away for good.
"Glasgow played much better against us this time around," Murphy said. "They played the tough defense that I expected and they handled our press in the first half, which kept things close.
"We didn't shoot the ball particularly well and we didn't go to the foul line as much as we're used to," Murphy added. "But our kids played hard and we came away with a win on a very tough road trip."
Fuzesy led the way for the Ponies with a game-high 18 points, and Steph Flatau chipped in with 10. Tiffany Waters led the Scotties in the scoring column with nine points.
Havre is now 11-5 on the season. After Fuzesy's big weekend and three wins in three nights, Murphy is feeling pretty good about where his team is at with two games remaining on its schedule.
"The thing about this weekend is that we are playing really well as a team right now," Murphy said. "Jolene had a spectacular night offensively against Malta. But she couldn't have done that without the excellent play of the rest of the team. I really like how we're playing right now."
Havre will be back in action on Saturday night in Great Falls. The Ponies will take on the Class AA Great Falls High Bison at 7:30 p.m. at the Swarthout Fieldhouse.
Havre 45, Glasgow 33
Havre 10 10 14 11 - 45
Glasgow 8 9 5 11 - 33
Havre - Amy McLain 2, Steph Flatau 10, Kacy Herron 4, Alexa Lipp 4, Justine Erhard 2, Jolene Fuzesy 18, Whitney Barnekoff 4.
Glasgow - Alexa Etchart 3, Denise Enebo 2, Millie McIntyre 3, Karissa Hughes 5, Chelsie Pattison 7, Annie Stromen 4, Tiffany Waters 9.
Total fouls - Havre 15, Glasgow 14. Fouled out - Erhard, Waters. Three-point goals - Fuzesy 3, Etchart, McIntrye, Hughes.
Havre 79, Malta 65
Malta 14 13 20 18 - 65
Havre 17 23 17 22 - 79
Malta - Ashley Henry 1, Roshon Nordlund 25, Kelly Pankratz 17, Nicole Salsbery 4, Jill King 16, Tracy Kaldenberg 2. Totals: 24 10-11.
Havre - Alicia Overcast 12, Amy McLain 3, Steph Flatau 9, Alexa Lipp 11, Jolene Fuzesy 42, Whitney Barnekoff 2. Totals: 32 6-9.
Total fouls: Malta 12, Havre 10. Fouled out: none. Three-point goals: Nordlund 5, Pankratz 2, Fuzesy 4, Lipp, Overcast 2, Flatau 1.