By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sportsemail@example.com
The Central A girls basketball tournament proved to be the end of the line for the Havre High girls basketball team yet again.
But the Ponies went down swinging as they dropped a heartbreaking 47-45 decision to the Browning Indians in Saturday night's consolation game at the Havre High gymnasium.
Trailing by six points with less than a minute to play in the game and their season on the line, Havre High senior Jolene Fuzesy drilled two dramatic three-pointers on consecutive possessions to tie the contest at 45-45.
But the Indians responded by driving the ball the length of the floor and scoring a putback basket by Loris Whiteman off a Tamara Guardipee miss with seven seconds remaining in the contest. After a Havre timeout, the Ponies failed to get a final shot attempt at the buzzer.
"The girls played their hearts out," said HHS head coach Dennis Murphy. "They gave everything they had in this game, but we came up short at the end.
"This is a really tough loss because we really wanted a chance to keep playing," Murphy added. "But we have had three classic games with Browning this season, and tonight they played great once again. You have to give Browning a lot of credit. They played great defensively tonight and their pressure really kept us from getting the shots we normally get.
After the contest, Browning head coach Leo Kennerly echoed Murphy's sentiments on his team's defensive efforts.
"We anticipated that Havre would be a little tired coming into this game," Kennerly said. "So we really put a lot of emphasis on getting up and pressuring them defensively. Our kids worked really hard on defense all night and I was really proud of the way they fought and worked so hard."
In the first half, neither team's offense could get much going. Fuzesy scored a couple of quick buckets to give the Ponies an early lead, but the Indians finished the quarter on a 6-0 run to take a 10-8 lead after one period of play.
In the second quarter, the Indians went inside to Guardipee, who had been plagued most of the weekend by foul trouble, and she responded by scoring eight of the Indians' 13 points in the period to give them a 23-17 halftime lead.
"Tamara played great for us tonight," Kennerly said. "She worked hard to get some open shots, and we knew we had to get her going because of Havre's size.
"But you have to give Havre a lot of credit," Kennerly added. "They are undersized no matter who they play. But they are such a great team, and they will do the things that they have to do do to stay with you no matter what you get on the inside."
In the third quarter, the Indians continued to keep Havre from really getting on track offensively. The Ponies were able to keep the game within five or six points throughout the period, but Jenna Skunkcap stole the momentum away from Havre as she drilled a three-pointer at the buzzer to give Browning a 36-28 lead heading into the fourth.
The fourth quarter turned into a dramatic see-saw affair. Alexa Lipp opened the quarter by nailing a three, which was followed by back-to-back baskets by Fuzesy and Steph Flatau that pulled Havre to within one point. But Browning pushed its lead back to as much as six points behind a couple of timely buckets from Bobbi Woodworth, setting up the furious final minute of play.
"Jolene hit two amazing shots down the stretch," Murphy said. "And the final play was supposed to go to her, but it just didn't work out. Browning did a great job of pressuring the ball on the inbounds and we couldn't get the play executed."
Said Kennerly: "This is a great win for these kids and I am really proud of all 12 players on this team for hanging in there and being able to get a win over a great Havre team. We wanted to come in here and get a trophy and put ourselves in a position to go to state and we did that. Now we'll have to wait and see what happens in the championship game."
Fuzesy's dramatic final night of her high school career included a game-high 24 points and six rebounds. Flatau chipped in with nine points. Guardipee led Browning with 19 points and 14 boards. Whiteman added 10 points for the Indians.
The Ponies were able to face Browning on Saturday night thanks in part to a hard-fought 61-55 win over a very scrappy Butte Central team in Saturday morning's loser-out action.
The Maroons came out firing from the three-point line to take an early lead against the heavily-favored Ponies. But senior Alicia Overcast kept Havre within striking distance by scoring 10 of Havre's 12 first-quarter points, including a pair of threes. Still, the Ponies trailed 15-12 at the end of the period.
But it didn't take long for Havre to take the momentum away from the Maroons as Jolene Fuzesy nailed a three-pointer to open the second quarter that sent the Ponies on a 9-0 run and eventually gave them a 29-26 lead at the half. The Ponies then upped their lead to six point at 43-37 heading into the final stanza.
Despite Havre's lead, the Maroons were not going to bow out of the tournament without a fight.
Butte Central resumed its hot shooting from the three-point line as it ripped off nine straight points to close the gap to one point with 1:47 remaining in the game.
Havre was able to get to the free-throw line down the stretch and ice the game behind free-throws from Fuzesy and two critical ones with five seconds left from junior point-guard Amy McLain.
"Butte Central played us a lot tougher than we expected," Murphy said. "They shot the ball extremely well from the outside and they gave us a tremendous game. But we got a huge effort from Alicia Overcast and her play really helped us overcome their effort."
Overcast's 17 points was complemented by a game-high 26 points from Fuzesy. The Maroons got 16 points from Jodi Hogart while Jordan Kambich added 15 points in the losing effort.
On Friday night, Havre gave the top-seeded Lewistown Eagles perhaps their sternest test of the entire weekend in a 63-47 semifinal loss.
The Ponies opened the contest by getting a pair of huge three's from Justine Erhard early in the first quarter. Although Erhard and the Ponies came out hot, the Eagles asserted their dominance with a 9-0 run to end the first quarter. That run eventually ballooned into a 15-0 run midway through the second quarter as the Eagles held 19-10 lead. But Havre proved resilient in the first half as Fuzesy drilled a three to end the half, leaving the Ponies trailing 27-24.
"We played really hard in the first half," Murphy said. "They got a little bit of a lead on us, but we were able to come back. I thought it was really key for us to only be down three. Unfortunately, it took a lot out of the kids to come back in the first half, and I think we got pretty tired down the stretch."
In the second half, the Eagles took advantage of mismatches inside as Lesly Richter scored six straight points at the end of the quarter to build the lead up to 11 points at 44-33. In the fourth quarter, the Eagles continued to pad their lead behind the play of backup guard Sonya Rogers, and despite their best effort, the Ponies could not come back.
"Lewistown played us really physical and it took a lot out of us," Murphy said. "I think our kids played really hard and really well, but it just wasn't enough. You just don't get anything easy against Lewistown."
Fuzesy once again paced the Ponies with a game-high 27 points. The Eagles had four players reach double figures led by Richter with 14 points. Lauren Tognetti also came off the bench to score 12 points.
With the loss to Browning on Saturday night, Havre's season comes to an end with a 14-8 overall record. Browning's season was also over thanks to Lewistown's win over Dillon in the championship game.
Despite the disappointment of not reaching the state tournament, Murphy was quick to praise the efforts of his entire team for a great season.
"We knew at the beginning of the year that we would need every player to give their best effort every night and they did that all season," Murphy said. "The kids practiced hard, they worked hard and they came together as a team."
"For our lack of size and the quality of the schedule we played, 14 wins is a pretty remarkable season and I am really proud of our team for what they have accomplished this year."
Lewistown 65, Havre 47 (sf)
Havre 10 14 9 14 - 47
Lewistown 13 14 17 21 - 65
Havre - Alicia Overcast 3, Steph Flatau 7, Justine Erhard 6, Jolene Fuzesy 27, Whitney Barnekoff 2, Rebecca Hilliard 2. Totals: 27 8-13.
Lewistown - Brenda Bassett 2, Sonya Rogers 12, Shaylynn Conroy 12, Alira Carpenter 7, Lesly Richter 14, Lauren Tognetti 12, Kayla Rettig 3. Totals 22 19-22.
Total fouls: Havre 20, Lewistown 13. Fouled out: none. Three-point goals: Fuzesy 4, Erhard 2, Overcast 1, Carpenter, Rettig 1.
Havre 61, Butte Central 55 (lo)
Butte Central 15 11 11 18 - 55
Havre 12 17 14 18 - 61
Butte Central - Jodi Hogart 16, Meghan Walsh 7, Caitlin O'Neill 10, Jordan Kambich 15, Dara Shea 9. Totals: 18 12-17 55.
Havre - Alicia Overcast 17, Amy McLain 7, Steph Flatau 6, Justine Erhard 1, Jolene Fuzesy 26, Rebecca Hilliard 4. Totals: 20 12-16 61.
Total fouls - Butte Central 19, Havre 17. Fouled out - Hogart. Technical fouls - none. Three point goals - Hogart 4, Walsh, Kambich 2, Overcast 3, McLain, Flatau, Fuzesy 4.
Browning 47, Havre 45 (3rd)
Havre 8 9 11 17 - 45
Browning 10 13 13 11 - 47
Havre - Alicia Overcast 4, Amy McLain 4, Steph Flatau 9, Alexa Lipp 3, Justine Erhard 2, Jolene Fuzesy 24. Totals: 16 9-12.
Browning - Loris Whiteman 10, Teresa Kennerly 6, Bobbie Woodworth 4, Jenna Skunkcap 6, Kendall Edmo 2, Tamara Guardipee 19. Totals: 20 5-11.
Total fouls: Havre 13, Browning 13. Fouled out: McLain. Three-point goals: Fuzesy 3, Lipp 1, Skunkcap 2.