By Harvey Brock & George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sportsfirstname.lastname@example.org
The Havre High boys basketball team finished its home season in dominant fashion, overpowering the Lewistown Eagles 69-41 Friday night at the HHS gym.
It was all too much for the Eagles, as the Blue Ponies simply had too much size, speed and senior leadership on senior night for the Eagles to handle.
Havre used its distinct height advantage to control the opening tip and score immediately on a put-back by senior post Ty Hedalen. It would be a sign of things to come.
Defensively, the Ponies employed their trademark full-court press, forcing turnovers that resulted in easy scoring opportunities. Havre raced out to a 14-4 lead. Lewistown coach Dick Brosseau called time out to settle his team, and Lewistown cut the lead to seven.
But it was only a temporary fix. A pair of steals by Jared Weigel, two Marc Mariani free throws and a lay-up by junior Mike Barton extended the Pony lead to 20-11 lead at the end of the first quarter. It was a lead the Ponies would never relinquish.
The second quarter featured more Ponies with a couple of put-backs by Hedalen, and Mariani leading a late second-period scoring spurt that increased the Pony lead to 17 at the halftime.
"I thought we played a little sloppy at times, but we used different combinations of players that weren't use to playing with each other, and it showed," said HHS head coach John Barnhorst. "I thought we went to the boards well tonight, particularly in the first half."
Said Brosseau: "We let it get away from us a bit in the second quarter. We rushed a few shots and turned the ball over a couple times and started to play their up-tempo type of game. We had no chance of beating them playing their game."
Gary Wagner opened the second half scoring with a 3-pointer to get things going. The Pony big men continued their inside domination both offensively and defensively. Havre employed a seldom used 2-1-2 zone defense that smothered any inside scoring opportunities for the Eagles and forced more turnovers, which lead to easy baskets. Havre outscored the Eagles 11-7 in the third period to stretch their lead 49-28.
"We have been turning the ball over too much lately," Barnhorst said. "But we did a better job of taking care of the basketball in the second half. I thought Lewistown really struggled against our zone, and it gave some easy opportunities."
In the fourth quarter, Havre extended its lead to 61-33 with five minutes to go before Barnhorst emptied his bench with the outcome securely in hand.
Hedalen scored 14 points, while Mariani came off the bench to also score 14 points. Havre's six seniors - Hedalen, Mariani, Wagner, Tyson Parman, Coda Tchida and Patch Wirtzberger - all made the scoring column in their final home appearance.
"I'm really happy the way the game turned out and for our seniors," Barnhorst said. "We had more seniors than we had starting spots tonight. Marc Mariani came to me before the game and volunteered to give up his starting spot. It says a lot about the type of kid Marc is to give up his starting spot on his final home game. We have a great bunch of seniors who all care more about winning than anything else."
Lewistown was led by Jeremy Olsen's 15 points.
"Playing in Havre is always tough, and we knew we would have to play a near perfect game to just have a chance to win it at the end," Brosseau said. "Havre has a good bunch of athletes that hate to lose. They played like they were on a mission tonight. They probably want to win state like they did in football."
Saturday night in Malta, the Ponies found themselves in an unexpected dogfight with the District 2B Mustangs.
Just one month after beating the Mustangs by nearly 60 points, Havre was unexpectedly trailing 44-43, heading into the fourth period. Malta had stolen the halftime lead away from the Ponies via a 20-10 third-quarter run.
But the Ponies proved resilient. They rallied and outscored the Mustangs 18-8 down the stretch to earn the nine-point victory, 61-52. Havre survived a tough shooting night from the floor and got 12 points from Mariani to lead the way. Wagner also chipped in with 11 points to help the Ponies sweep the Mustangs for the second straight year.
Malta got a stellar night from John Galt, who poured in a game-high 21 points, while Bo Stiles chipped in with 11 points.
The Ponies are now 15-2 on the year with one game remaining on its regular season schedule. Havre will close out the regular season on the road at Browning on Saturday night.
Havre 69, Lewistown 41
Lewistown 11 10 7 13 - 41
Havre 20 18 11 20 - 69
Lewistown - Max Pearson 7, Kyle Rector 2, Evan Stokken 2, Jeremy Olsen 15, Brian Jeide 3, Mitch Braine 2, Jaceson Stokken 2, Colby Tognetti 5, Paul Buckentin 2, Shawn Drucker 1. Totals 17 3-4.
Havre - Patch Wirtzberger 7, Marc Mariani 14, Coda Tchida 2, Jeremy Giardina 4, Gary Wagner 8, Jared Weigel 4, Tyson Parman 9, Ty Hedalen 14, Tanner Veis 1, Mike Barton 6. Totals 26 13-20.
Team fouls - Lewistown 21, Havre 9. Fouled out - none. 3-point goals - Pearson, Olsen, Jeide, Tognetti, Wirtzberger, Mariani, Wagner 2.
Havre 61, Malta 52
Havre 20 13 10 18 - 61
Malta 12 11 21 8 - 52
Havre - Patch Wirtzberger 3, Marc Mariani 12, Jeremy Giardina 5, Gary Wagner 11, Jared Weigel 7, Tyson Parman 5, Ty Hedalen 9, Mike Barton 9. Totals 23 8-13.
Malta - Jay Galt 2, John Galt 21, Bo Stiles 11, Lyndon Matthews 7, Jordan Hould 3, Jeremy Azure 5, Scott Lindgren 3. Totals 21 7-10.
Team Fouls - Havre 16, Malta 19. Fouled out - none. 3-point goals - Wirtzberger, Mariani 2, Wagner 2, Weigel.