By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sportsemail@example.com
One night after getting blown out in Browning, the Butte Central Maroons dealt the Havre Blue Ponies a very difficult home loss, 40-35, in Central A girls basketball action Saturday night at the HHS gymnasium.
Havre shook off a terrible first quarter of play and stormed back in the fourth quarter before the Maroons iced the game in the final two minutes. The Ponies also fell victim to a 22-point explosion by BC forward Jordan Kambich.
Kambich did most of her damage in the opening quarter, but she also hurt the Ponies in the waning minutes of the game.
"Butte Central was very physical with us tonight," said Havre High head coach Jason Wirt after the game. "They came in here and pushed us around and we just didn't push back. They were physical with us right away and that set the tone for the rest of the game."
Indeed, neither team scored in the first three minutes of the game, but Kambich got the Maroons started off by drilling a three-pointer at the 4:44 mark in the period. The three was part of Kambich's 11 first-quarter points.
Meanwhile, the Ponies struggled offensively. They committed seven turnovers in the opening stanza and did not connect on their first field goal until the 1:57 mark when Steph Flatau hit a baseline jumper.
Havre was also hampered offensively when starting point guard Amy McLain was sidelined with three personal fouls with two minutes left to play in the quarter. By the time the dust settled, the Maroons had jumped out to a 15-4 lead and appeared poised to blow the Ponies out.
But Havre's defense dug in in the second quarter and limited the BC offense to six points. The Ponies still managed just eight points in the period, leaving the Maroons with a commanding 21-12 lead at intermission.
"In the first half, we just didn't respond well to their physical play," Wirt said. "We just have to learn to be physical back."
As bad as things were in the first half for Havre, it didn't take long for the Ponies to turn their fortunes around. Havre's press stymied the Maroons in the second half.
The Ponies began to chip away at the Maroon lead. Justine Erhard closed out the third period with a three-pointer, cutting the Maroons' lead to five points, 28-23.
Havre's bench then brought the Ponies all the way back at the start of the fourth quarter. Keelie Solomon opened the period with two straight baskets to cut the lead to one point. Junior point guard Kelsey Evans also filled in admirably for McLain, who had picked up her fourth foul at the end of the third period.
Evans drained two straight baskets, including a three-pointer from the top of the key that gave the Ponies their first and only lead of the contest at 33-31 with four minutes remaining in the game.
From that point, the Ponies struggled home, committing a pair of crucial turnovers as well as being forced to put the Maroons on the foul line to stop the clock. Kambich came back to life, scoring five of her team's final eight points to ice the game.
"I think we learned that we have to start learning how to play under adversity," Wirt said. "We didn't do that in the first half and we didn't do it in a couple of key situations at the end of the game when we had fought all the way back to get the lead.
"We have to be able to play through situations even when things aren't going our way."
While Kambich carried the Maroons with her game-high 22 points, the Ponies also got another solid all-around effort from Flatau. She scored a team-high 15 points. Evans came off the bench to give the Ponies six points.
"Kelsey did a great job when she came in tonight," Wirt said. "We count on her to come in and play like that. We didn't miss a beat when she was in there. That is one of the advantages we have in having two really good point guards."
The loss drops Havre back to .500 overall as well as in Central A conference play. The Ponies (4-4, 2-2) will be back in action on Friday night when they host Lewistown. They will also travel to Class B rival Malta on Saturday afternoon.
Butte Central 40, Havre 35
Butte Central 15 6 7 12 - 40
Havre 4 8 11 12 - 35
Butte Central - Brenna Manion 4, Jodi Hogart 2, Kelci Thatcher 6, Britney Brophy 2, Jordan Kambich 22, Kate Shevlin 4.
Havre - Amy McLain 2, Steph Flatau 15, Kelsey Evans 6, Justine Erhard 5, Alexa Lipp 3, Keelie Solomon 4.
Total fouls - 21, Butte Central 13. Fouled out - McLain. Three-point goals - BC 2 (Kambich 2). Havre 2 (Evans 1, Erhard 1).