By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sportsfirstname.lastname@example.org
The Central A boys basketball tournament got under way yesterday afternoon in Belgrade. But tonight the fun begins for the top-seeded Havre High boys basketball team as it prepares to face the Browning Indians at 6:30 in the semifinals.
Havre is seeking its second consecutive Central A tournament title and its first under new head coach John Barnhorst. And while the Ponies (15-3) have been the cream of the Central A crop this season, there is cause for concern entering tonight's game.
Havre has to turn around and play a Browning team that just rolled the Ponies five days ago, and according to Barnhorst, his team hasn't exactly been stellar the last three weeks.
"We're definitely concerned about the way we have played the last couple of weeks, especially having to play Browning again," Barnhorst said. "They are playing well right now.
"But I would like to think that we have a lot of senior leaders on this team who understand how important this time of year is," he added. "We have a lot of kids who have been here before, and they know what's at stake."
What is at stake for the Ponies is a berth in the Class A state tournament two weeks from now in Butte. A month ago many people had Havre picked as a shoe in to not only reach the state tournament, but as one of the favorites to cut down the nets at the end of the season. But the Central A has has shown in recent weeks that it may not be as weak as many had originally thought.
Belgrade (13-5) is the No. 2 seed in the tournament and has one of the league's best all-around scorers in guard Rick Brown, as well as one of the conference's best big men in 6-5 forward Rex Martin. The Panthers also had a bye in the first round of the tourney and will face the hot-shooting Butte Central Maroons tonight in the other boys semifinal. The Maroons are led by 5-9 sharpshooter Shaughn McKeon, who gave the Ponies all kinds of trouble a month ago in Havre.
"This tournament is going to be much more competitive than people realize," Barnhorst said. "Browning just beat us and Belgrade and Butte Central have also been playing really well towards the end of the year. We are going to have to really step up and play much better basketball if we want to make it out of this tournament."
Indeed, in Havre's loss to the Indians last week they surrendered an uncharacteristic 75 points and also turned the ball over 26 times. Neither of those stats made Barnhorst very happy and both phases of the game will make or break the Ponies this week in Belgrade.
"It all starts with our defense," Barnhorst said. "We have to do a much better job defending if we want to be successful this weekend. And we just can't be as careless with the basketball as we have been in the last couple of games. But again, we have some seniors on this team that understand that if we make those same mistakes again this week our season will be over."
Havre does have by far the most experienced team in the tournament this week. The Ponies are the defending Central A champions and they finished third at the Class A state tournament a year ago. Most of the players on the current HHS roster were on that team from a year ago, including perhaps Havre's most improved player in senior Ty Hedalen.
Hedalen comes into the tournament second in the Central A in scoring at 18 points per game and he also averages seven rebounds per outing. Junior Jared Weigel, who is back to full strength after suffering an ankle injury two weeks ago, is also averaging close to 12 points per game.
Senior point guard Marc Mariani is the catalyst of the Havre team averaging 11 points, eight assists and five steals per outing. The Ponies are also strengthened by a bench that gets double digit scoring routinely from junior Jeremy Giardina and senior Patch Wirtzberger. Havre also has the luxury of bringing 6-8 junior Mike Barton off of the bench as well.
"There is no question that if we play well, I think we are the favorite to win this tournament," Barnhorst said. "But we have to play well right away because anyone can get hot and beat you in tournament time if you don't."
Tonight's semifinals get under way at 6:30 p.m. with the Ponies taking on Browning (7-13). That game can be heard on 610 KOJM-AM. The Belgrade/Butte Central game will immediately follow. The boys championship game is set to tipoff at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday night and all of the action will take place at the Belgrade Special Events Center.
Butte Central 70, Livingston 57
Butte Central 15 14 13 28 - 70
Livingston 17 18 9 13 - 57
BUTTE CENTRAL (11-8)
Jake Stagnoli 3-7 1-3 7, Shaughn McKeon 4-10 14-17 26, Matt Pokorny 3-10 3-6 10, Stephan Burns 3-4 4-6 11, Alex Murphy 3-6 0-0 6, Matt Ritter 1-4 1-2 4, Robert Wheeler 0-0 0-0 0, Kevin O'Leary 2-2 0-2 4, Clay McQueary 1-1 0-0 3, Matt Crowe 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-44 23-36 70.
Johnny Kaiser 1-4 0-1 2, Craig Hutchinson 9-18 3-4 22, Mychal McNamee 5-12, 2-3 13, Mike Benvenga 2-2 0-1 4, Jay Hardesty 4-13 2-2 11, Ryan Wulf 0-3 1-1 1, Scottie Schleicher 0-0 0-0 0. Greg Knupp 0-1 1-1 1, Carl Berntsen 1-1 1-1 3. Totals 22-54 10-14 57.
3-point goals - BC 7-17 (McKeon 4-7, Pokorny 1-4, Ritter 1-4, McQueary 1-1, Murphy 0-1), Livingston 3-14 (Wulf 0-3, Hutchinson 1-4, McNamee 1-3, Hardesty 1-4). Rebounds - BC 40 (Burns 11, Stagnoli 9), Livingston 28 (Hardesty 10). Assists - BC 14 (Murphy 5, Pokorny 4, McKeon 3, Stagnoli 2), Livingston 5 (Hardesty 2). Turnovers - BC 12, Livingston 16. Fouls - BC 19, Livingston 27. Fouled out - Hutchinson, Benvenga. Technicals - Hutchinson, Benvenga.
Browning 79, Lewistown 69
Lewistown 12 24 10 23 - 69
Browning 21 17 19 22 - 79
Max Person 3-13 2-2 9, Jeremy Olson 4-13 2-2 12, Brian Jeide 2-7 0-0 6, Mitch Braine 6-12 2-2 15, Jaceson Stokken 0-0 0-0 0, Kyle Rector 5-6 3-4 13, Evan Stokken 0-0 0-0 0, Kam Pearson 5-6, 0-0 10, Paul Buckentin 1-2 2-2 4, Shaun Curbin 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-59 11-12 69.
Ryan Augare 6-7 1-3 15, Scott Raining Bird 5-10 4-6 14, Jordan Running Wolf 3-7 1-2 7, Andrew Sellers 3-5 2-2 8, Jared Wolf Tail 5-8 2-2 13, D.J. Fish 1-1 2-2 4, Chris Godbert 1-1 1-1 3, Ronald Ingraham 1-2 0-0 2, Marcus Mad Man 5-11 0-1 13, Nathan Many Hides 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 30-53 12-18 79.
3-point goals - Lewistown 6-24 (M. Pearson 1-7, Olson 2-5, Jeide 2-5, Braine 1-6, K. Pearson 0-1), Browning 7-14 (Augare 2-3, Raining Bird 0-1, Mad Man 3-6, Ingraham 0-1, Gogert 1-1, Wolf Tail 1-2). Rebounds - Lewistown 30 (Olson 6, Buckentin 6), Browning 29 (Running Wolf 12). Assists - Lewistown 10 (M. Pearson 4), Browning 15 (Raining Bird 4). Turnovers - Lewistown 15, Browning 13. Fouls - Lewistown 14, Browning 14. Fouled out - Sellers. Technichals - none.