By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sports /firstname.lastname@example.org
In its first three games of the season, the Havre High boys basketball team has yet to be tested. First-year head coach John Barnhorst knows that this weekend will be very different.
Tonight the Ponies will host Central A conference rival Browing at 7:30 p.m. at the Havre High gymnasium. On Saturday the Ponies will travel to Great Falls to renew their rivalry with the Great Falls High Bison.
Havre High opened the season two weeks ago with a 40-point victory in Chinook. The Ponies followed up that win with a pair of easy wins last weekend in Belgrade and Livingston to push their record to 3-0.
In order for the Ponies to continue their hot play, Barnhorst said, Havre will have to raise its level of play in several areas this weekend.
"We have been playing good basketball so far this season," Barnhorst said. "But we have been prone to turnovers so far, and that is something we won't be able to do this weekend. We will also have to raise our intensity level because these are two very big games."
Tonight's tilt with Browning will feature two offenses that love to get up and down the floor. Both teams would love to have the final score in the 90s or higher. In order for Havre to have success against the fast-paced Indians, the players will have to take full advantage of their fast-break opportunities.
"We have to be able to break their press effectively," Barnhorst said. "In the past, Browning's pressure has gotten to us a little, but we have very experienced guards and I am confident they can handle the press.
"But what will be more important is taking advantage of our numbers," he added. "If we get fast-break opportunities, we have to make sure we score points off of them."
Not only will the Ponies have their hands full with Browning's up-tempo style of play, but they will also have to contend with a tall and talented Indian lineup. Browning (1-1) has several quality seniors led by leading scorer Andrew Sellers. In Browning's two games this season, Sellers has scored 27 and 17 points, respectively. The Indians will also look to 6-2 forwards Tyler Running Crane and Jared Wolftail for scoring inside. Scott Raining Bird and Marcus Madman are two guards who can shoot the ball very well from the outside.
"Andrew Sellers seems to be the focal point of their offense," Barnhorst said. "A lot of what they do seems to go through him.
"But we know that they have several good players," he added. "We are going to have to play good defense and make sure we're sharp on offense if we are going to be successful against them."
On Saturday the Ponies will play the exact opposite of Browning when they travel to Great Falls to take on the Class AA Bison. If Havre is to capture the famed Ole Goat traveling trophy this season, it will have to beat GFH on Saturday. The last two seasons Havre has been blown out at the Bison Fieldhouse, and if that trend is going to be reversed, Barnhorst said one thing will be important above all else.
"I feel like we have a team that can compete with GFH this season," Barnhorst said. "But the thing that we haven't done against the Great Falls schools is be physical with them.
"They play a very physical style of basketball at the AA level and we have not been able to stand up to it in the past," Barnhorst added. "If we can match their intensity and handle their physical play on Saturday, then I think we'll be fine."
The Bison like to play a very deliberate half-court offense, meaning the Ponies will have to be strong defensively. While the Bison aren't as big as they have been in the past, they do have a pair of outstanding shooters in Shane Howard and Shawn Tatarka.
"One thing we have to do is limit their scoring chances," Barnhorst said. "That all starts with rebounding. We will have to rebound the ball well on both ends if we are going to stay with them, and that goes back to being physical."
Offense won't be a problem for the Ponies. They are averaging a shade over 70 points per contest this season and they have broken the 90-point barrier and the 80-point barrier this season. Ty Hedalen is leading Havre in scoring and rebounding, and junior Jared Weigel is also averaging in double figures.
"I think we have the talent and the confidence to win this game," Barnhorst said. "We haven't played well in their gym in the past and hopefully we can turn that around on Saturday."
Tonight's game against Browning will tip off at 7:30 p.m. at the Havre High gymnasium. Saturday's game at the Bison Fieldhouse in Great Falls will begin at 4:30 p.m.