By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sports/ email@example.com
As the Havre High boys basketball team prepares to host the Great Falls High Bison tonight, one thing is for certain - the Ole Goat Trophy will stay in Great Falls for another year. With the Bison already owning a win over Havre last month, the traveling trophy will stay where it is.
Regardless of the trophy, when Havre (12-5) hosts the unranked Bison tonight, the HHS gymnasium should be filled with plenty of emotion for several reasons.
First and foremost, the two teams are bitter rivals despite their classifications. Second, the Ponies are locked in a struggle with Belgrade for the Central A Conference regular season championship, and a win over the Class AA Bison could be enough to give Havre the title and, more importantly, the No. 1 seed at next week's divisional tournament in Butte.
The HHS gymnasium will also be emotional because of the fact that Havre will be saying goodbye to three seniors. Cory Brothers, Trent Normandy and Bret Magelssen will be playing in front of their home fans for the last time.
Normandy and Brothers have played varsity for three years. Normandy said that despite the fact that emotions will be running high, he has to treat it as just another game.
"There will definitely be some emotions before the game," Normandy said. "Cory and I have played together for a long time and this is our last game at home. But it is also a really important game for us, and we can't afford to get distracted by the emotional part of it."
Blue Pony head coach Mark West acknowledged this is a big game for his team. But he also knows how important it is to honor his three seniors.
"These three have been with me for a while now, and they are a very special group," West said. "I hate to see any of them go because they have been a really nice group to coach."
Brothers, who is winding down a phenomenal career at HHS, had his crowning moment in a Blue Pony uniform last season in Havre against the Bison, when he scored a school- record 51 points and spurred the Ponies to a huge upset win. He and Normandy have been starters for three seasons under West, who believes that the two players have been equally important to the Havre High program.
"The best thing I can say about Cory is that he works harder at being a better player than anyone I have ever seen," West said. "His work ethic has actually helped our program because the younger kids see him and see what hard work can do. He is a tremendous player and a great leader.
"Trent has also been a big part of our program for a long time and so has Bret Magelssen," West added. "Trent has been a great player to coach because he has always been a true team player. He does all of the little things that you want in a great player, and he is just so coachable.
"Bret has really stepped up for us this year. His game has improved a lot and he has done a great job for us off the bench."
After the seniors are honored and the game tips off, it will be an uphill struggle for the Ponies. The Bison have just five wins this season, but they have not been blown out by anybody either.
The Bison had a 30-point win over the Ponies last month in Great Falls. In that game, GFH shot an astounding 73 percent from the field. West is certainly hoping that history does not repeat itself tonight.
"We don't expect Great Falls High to shoot the ball that well against us again," West said. "But the kids also know we didn't really play that well down there. I think they are very motivated to change things in our gym because typically we have played GFH very well at home."
Said Normandy: "We are all definitely up for this game. We know that Great Falls High is a very good team, but we know we can play with them and we are pretty fired up for this game. The key for us is that we have finally come together this last couple weeks and we are playing very good team basketball right now."
The game between the Blue Ponies and the Bison will tip off at 7:30 p.m. at the Havre High gymnasium. The game can be heard locally on 610 KOJM-AM.