Havre Daily News
After two tough losses last weekend, it doesn't get any easier for the Havre High girls basketball team as the Blue Ponies welcome archrival CMR to the HHS gymnasium tonight. The game should provide a stiff test for a team that is still searching to find its identity.
The Ponies are coming off a weekend in which they faced one of the top teams in all of Class A in the Browning Indians, and the Great Falls High Bison, a Class AA opponent. So the Ponies know what it's like to face tough competition.
CMR may just be the toughest yet.
CMR is widely regarded as one of the top teams in all of Class AA. It is 3-0 coming into tonight's contest and is led by star players Kelsey Hopkins and Shantell Marquis.
“They are quick and athletic and they are going to put pressure on us,” HHS head coach Jason Wirt said. “How we handle their pressure is going to be the key.”
The Ponies may not have quite as much talent as the Rustlers do, but they do have Steph Flatau, who has been playing some great basketball lately, including setting a school record with 22 rebounds on Friday night against Browning.
The Ponies also have the confidence of knowing that they beat these very same Rustlers last season in Havre.
“I think it's going to be a good test for us,” Wirt said. “I would rather play a tough team like CMR than a team that we would defeat easily. It forces the kids to get up for the game.”
If the Ponies are going to have a chance to beat the Rustlers, they are going to have to find a way to shoot the ball better. The Ponies struggled from beyond the arc this weekend as they were just 8-for-34, a percentage that will not cut it against a team of the Rustlers' caliber.
“If we can shoot the ball better, teams won't be able to sit back in a zone,” Wirt said. “If we can start to knock down some shots, that will change things a lot.”
The Ponies are going to need a good effort from players like Keelie Solomon, Alexa Lipp and Kelsey Evans, who are all going to have to step up and make some of those perimeter shots, as well as protect the ball against the Rustlers' pressure defense.
Havre will also need a bigger contribution from its bench if it is going to be able to stay with the Rustlers. Players like Stephanie Stremcha and Tricia Samson will have to give the Ponies solid minutes off the bench in order for the Ponies to be successful.
“Kelsey needs to continue to improve and pick her spots and take what's there,” Wirt said. “The bench needs to be more assertive and I hope to see some more confidence from them. They are young, but they need to be assertive.”
All in all, tonight will be a stern test for the Ponies and it will be interesting to see how the team responds after two tough losses last weekend.
“We beat them last year and it would be nice to do it again this year,” Wirt said. “We believe we have a chance to win and it's going to be a good test for us.”
Tonight's game between Havre High and CMR will tip off at 7:30 at the HHS gymnasium.