By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sportsfirstname.lastname@example.org
One of the biggest concerns new Havre High head girls basketball coach Jason Wirt had coming into the 2004-05 season was the fact that his team is undersized compared to most of the opponents on the HHS schedule this season.
Thursday night at the Havre High gymnasium, that fact was exploited by the highly touted Great Falls High Bison. The Bison went inside early and often and took advantage of the smaller Havre post players on both ends of the floor in a 69-47 nonconference win over the Blue Ponies.
The Bison made it clear early in the contest that Havre would have to be able to defend taller post players like Mary Galloway and Kiri Winkler, as well as guard Sam Shermele. The trio got off to a hot start and also got two Havre starters in early foul trouble. By the 4:59 mark in the first quarter, seniors Whitney Barnekoff and Justine Erhard were both on the bench with two fouls apiece and the Bison were in the midst of building a 23-9 first-period lead. From there the Ponies could never really recover.
"The start of the game really hurt us," Wirt said. "I felt like we didn't have enough patience offensively, and it was really tough when we had two starters in foul trouble so early in the game."
Things didn't go much better for the Ponies in the second period. Havre was plagued with foul trouble all night long, and the Bison stepped to the free-throw line way too much for such an already potent offensive team. By the end of the half, the Ponies were trailing 40-22, and Great Falls High was not about to let up.
Wirt said another critical problem his team faced was that it never really mentally recovered from the early problems. In the second quarter, the Ponies turned the ball over several times, and most of those turnovers resulted in easy transition baskets for the Bison, which only widened their halftime lead.
"One of the things we didn't do well tonight was getting over our mistakes. We really let our mistakes snowball on us," Wirt said. "We had spurts where we played pretty well, but we also had spurts where we just killed ourselves tonight."
Havre's defensive effort tightened up a bit in the second half, and junior guard Steph Flatau came alive to score the majority of her team-high 14 points in the third and fourth quarters. However, it was a case of too little too late as the Bison continued to pour on the scoring throughout most of the second half. At one point in the fourth quarter, the Bison led by as many as 30 points at 63-33.
Besides the bad early start, Havre struggled with the Bison's interior game. Galloway scored 10 points and Shermele slashed her way into the lane for 14 points. Star guard Sarah Stubbs led all scorers with a game-high 18 points. Havre did hold Lauren Beck, one of the top offensive players in Class AA, to just eight points on the night, but her teammates certainly picked up the slack.
"I thought we did a much better job defensively in the second half," Wirt said. "They (GFH) are a big, physical team and they took advantage of us inside tonight."
Aside from Flatau's 14 points, the Ponies got eight points from Barnekoff and another eight points off the bench from junior Alexa Lipp. Kelsey Evans also came off the bench to score six points in the losing effort.
The win over Havre improved GFH's record to 3-0 this season, while the Ponies fall to 2-2. However, the loss will not hurt Havre in the Central A standings as it has in years past, because the conference no longer uses the Krause Kount points system.
Havre will look to rebound from its loss on Saturday night when it hosts the Browning Lady Indians at 5 p.m. at the Havre High gymnasium.
GFH 69, Havre 47
GFH 23 17 18 11 - 69
Havre 9 13 11 14 - 47
GFH - Sam Schermele 14, Sarah Stubbs 18, Frankie Brady 1, Patti Labbs 4, Brittany Deffinbaugh 3, Kiri Winkler 8, Marissa Francis 3, Mary Galloway 10, Lauren Beck 8.
Havre - Amy McLain 2, Steph Flatau 14, Kelsey Evans 6, Alexa Lipp 8, Justine Erhard 1, Keelie Solomon 5, Whitney Barnekoff 8. Rebecca Hilliard 3.
Total fouls - GFH 14, Havre 18. Fouled out - McLain. Three point goals - GFH 3 (Sarah Stubbs 3), Havre 1 (Keelie Solomon 1).