George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sportsemail@example.com
If there is such a thing as a moral victory, the Havre high boys basketball team might have picked one up on Friday night against the Great Falls High Bison.
The Ponies, who fell to the Bison by 30 points last month in Great Falls, narrowly dropped a 61-58 decision to GFH on Friday night in their final game of the regular season.
Even though it was a heartbreaking defeat, Blue Pony head coach Mark West saw some things that he liked in his team as it closed out a very successful regular season.
"The kids played really well on Friday night," West said. "We outrebounded GFH and we played really good defense. Those are two things we haven't done very well this season and we came up big in those areas on Friday night.
"We also had a chance to win at the end of the game and even though we didn't get it done, we have to feel good about the way we played."
Havre took full advantage of a sluggish start by the Bison and built a 13-9 first quarter lead. The Bison got things going in the second period and were able to tie the contest at 26-26 at the half.
In the third quarter, both teams picked up the offensive pace and the Ponies drilled a couple of key three-pointers to stay within two points of the Bison. Great Falls High then opened up a six-point lead in the fourth period, but senior Trent Normandy drilled a huge three to cut the Great Falls High lead to one point with less than a minute to play. Havre had a couple more chances to tie or take the lead at the end of the game but could not convert.
"One of the things that hurt us was that Great Falls High got to the free-throw line too much," West said. "We were playing well enough to win the game, but they were able to keep it close because they made so many free throws.
"We also didn't shoot the ball well from the three-point line," West added. "We only made eight of 30 from out there. If we are going to take that many we have to make more."
The Ponies were paced by Normandy and Cory Brothers, both of whom were playing in their final game at the HHS gymnasium. Brothers poured in 21 points and made three three-pointers. Normandy dropped in 12 points, all from behind the three-point line.
The Bison got 17 points from Josh Saunders and 14 points from Tyler Corwin in the win.
The loss means that the Ponies (12-6) finish the regular season in second place in the Central A Conference standings. Belgrade captured the regular season crown and Dillon finished third behind the Ponies. With the Central A divisional tournament a mere four days away, West is hoping that how his team played against Great Falls High is a sign of good things to come.
"I think that we are peaking right now," West said. "We have been playing good team basketball and our defense is starting to come around. We forced GFH into a lot of turnovers on Friday night and that shows me that we are playing much better basketball."
Havre will now head to the Central A divisional tournament in Butte. The Ponies are slated to play the Butte Central Maroons in the opening round on Thursday at the Butte Civic Center.
Great Falls 61, Havre 58
Great Falls 9 16 21 15 - 61
Havre 13 12 19 14 - 58
Great Falls - Tyler Bolton 7, Dan Mathes 2, Josh Saunders 17, Brian Bollwitt 4, Shaun Tatarka 8, Bob Howard 9, Tyler Corwin 14.
Havre - Patrick Wirtzberger 2, Marc Mariani 6, Trent Normandy 12, Cory Brothers 21, Jeremy Giardina 3, Tyler Hedalen 8, Brett Magelssen 2, Jared Weigel 4.
Total fouls - GFH 16, Havre 25. Fouled out - Hedalen. Three point goals - Normandy 4, Brothers 3, Giardina 1.