By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sportsemail@example.com
A lot is at stake for both the Havre High boys and girls basketball teams tonight as they will both face the Butte Central Maroons.
The HHS boys team has a chance to lock up the Central A regular season championship with a win over the Maroons at 7 p.m. tonight at the Havre High gym.
The Blue Pony girls squad also has an important game when it takes on the Maroons in Butte at 7:30 p.m. With a win, the Ponies (7-7, 3-4) would put themselves alone in third place in the conference standings with just two conference games remaining on their schedule.
"This is a big game for us tonight," said HHS first-year head coach Jason Wirt. "A win tonight would put us in really good shape to get second or third in the conference and it would mean that we would be in a good spot at the divisional tournament."
Of course the Maroons might have a little something to say about the outcome of tonight's game. Central (7-5, 2-3) knocked off the Ponies in Havre on Jan. 8 behind a 24-point outburst from senior Jordan Kambich.
In that game, Havre got off to a very slow start and was forced to play catch-up the rest of the night. While the Ponies ultimately clawed their way back in the game and took the lead for a brief period, they couldn't put the Maroons away.
The second meeting with Butte Central is even more crucial to Havre's postseason hopes and Wirt said that few changes need to be made to tonight's game plan.
"The big thing is that we just have to do a better job defending Kambich," he said. "We did a great job on Jodi Hogart but Kambich was the difference in that game.
"We match up well with Butte Central and we are very similar to them in most areas," Wirt added. "So we just need to do a better job defensively and we'll be fine."
There will be added incentive for the Maroons as they will be playing in the brand new Maroon Activity Center, which was recently made ready for play.
While the HHS girls are doing battle in Butte, their male counterparts will be hosting the Maroons here in Havre.
Havre (12-2, 7-0) sits atop the Central A conference standings and a win over the Maroons would clinch a third-straight Central A regular season crown and a first for head coach John Barnhorst.
The Ponies already own a 15-point win over Butte Central (6-6, 3-2) last month, a game in which junior Jared Weigel scored 25 points for Havre. While the Maroons were unable to slow the red-hot Ponies down in Butte, Barnhorst expects a much tougher test the second time around.
"I think that they will probably do a much better job against our press than they did in Butte," Barnhorst said. "They have very good guards that are capable of handling our pressure and they also shoot the ball really well at times. I think they will be a little more prepared for what we do."
Barnhorst also said that the Maroons might be better served to try and slow the pace of the game down and move the ball a little more against a Havre team that thrives on a frenzied pace.
"I expect that they will be a little more patient offensively," Barnhorst said. "That means that we are going to have to be better defensively and make sure we know where their shooters are at all times."
The Maroons and the Ponies possess some of the top scorers in the Central A conference. Havre has the leading scorer in the Central A in 6-5 senior Ty Hedalen at 19 points per game, while the Maroons counter with Shaun McKeon, who averages around 16 points per game. Matt Pokorny and Alex Murphy also average double figures for Central as does Weigel for Havre.
Tonight's boys game between Havre and Butte Central will tip off at 7 p.m. a half hour earlier than usual at the HHS gymnasium in Havre. The freshman game will also start earlier at 4 p.m. with the JV at 5:30 p.m.
The girls game between the Ponies and Maroons will tip off at 7:30 p.m. in Butte and can be heard locally on 610 KOJM-AM.