By Harvey Brock & George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sportsfirstname.lastname@example.org
For the second time in as many games, the Havre high girls basketball team put up a valiant effort against the vaunted Lewistown Eagles only to come up short in its upset bid.
Although the Ponies fell 77-49 Friday night at the Fergus High gymnasium, they once again pushed the high-powered Eagles into a tight battle. However, unlike the first meeting between the two schools last month, this time the Ponies started quickly and then let the Eagles run away from them in the second half.
Havre played a brilliant first quarter and surprised the host Eagles by grabbing an 18-16 lead. Senior Amy McLain provided the offensive spark for the Ponies, scoring eight points in the opening stanza.
But McLain was then forced to the bench as she picked up her third foul early in the second quarter. Still, the Ponies were able to continue to keep pace with Eagles in the first half, as Lewistown led by just four points, 39-35, at the half.
"Our goal for the weekend was to be ahead after the first quarter in each game," said HHS head coach Jason Wirt. "Against Lewistown we did that, and we were playing pretty good basketball, especially offensively.
"But in the second half, we had some breakdowns defensively and that let them get back in front of us," he added. "Our defensive rotations in our half-court defense weren't very good in the second half, and Lewistown just started getting too many easy layups."
Indeed, the Eagles were off to the races in the second half, as they outscored the Ponies 38-14 in the final 16 minutes of the contest. Still, Wirt said that the Ponies continued to gain confidence because of how they played in the first half and that will help them as the divisional tournament approaches.
Steph Flatau and Alexa Lipp paced the Ponies with 11 points each. Lipp connected on three 3-pointers on the night. Once again, Lewistown's Alira Carpenter hurt Havre with a game-high 30 points and teammate Sonya Rogers added 17 points in the win.
While the loss was disappointing, Havre had another tough game on Saturday with Class B powerhouse Malta in the final home game of the regular season and the final home game for seniors Amy McLain, Whitney Barnekoff, Justine Erhard and Rebecca Hilliard.
The seniors made the most of their final game, scoring a combined 36 points to lead the Ponies to a 55-53 win at the HHS gym.
"I told the girls that basketball is a fun game and you never know when it is going to end, and you need to play with passion," Wirt said. "I thought our seniors did that tonight and were not intimidated by their big people and attacked the basket."
Havre jumped out to an early lead, as Flatau and Hilliard opened the game with back-to-back layups. Malta answered with a pair of 3-pointers from Roshon Nordlund as both teams traded baskets early on.
Justine Erhard and Malta's Kelly Pankratz got locked in a scoring dual early on with Erhard pouring in nine points and Pankratz scoring 11 in the first period alone.
Havre pushed the lead to 30-23 at halftime. Kelsey Evans came off the bench to drain three 3-pointers in the second quarter and Hilliard banked in a shot at the buzzer.
"We got a big lift from Kelsey Evans off the bench in the second period," Wirt said. "It is tough for Kelsey to get minutes, playing behind Amy McLain, but she always plays well in the minutes she does play."
Havre pushed the lead to 10 in the third quarter, thanks to some solid defensive pressure, forcing several turnovers leading to easy scores.
Up 43-33 going into the fourth quarter, the Ponies appeared poised to put the game away. But the M-Ettes would have none of it.
Pankratz, the splendid sophomore, continued her solid play, as Malta chipped away at the Havre lead. She drilled a long 3-pointer to cut the lead to two with just two minutes remaining.
Havre pushed the lead to 52-48 as Flatau and McLain each made one of two free throws. The M-Ettes answered with a baseline jumper from Megan Skiff.
On the ensuing possession, McLain was tied up for a jump ball, giving Malta possession with 12 seconds remaining. Malta tried to set up a final shot for Pankratz, but McLain and Lipp blew up the play, double teaming Pankratz and forcing her to double dribble.
Malta was forced to foul and McLain calmly sank two free throws to push the lead to 54-50. Pankratz raced down and nailed another 3-pointer to cut the lead to one. The M-Ettes again fouled and McLain sank one of two and time ran out on Malta's chances.
"I thought we did a good job finishing the game," Wirt said. "Malta is a good team and they have some good shooters. But we did a good job of forcing them out a step or two and made their 3-point shots tougher."
Besides Pankratz' 22 points, Malta also got 13 from Nordlund and 10 from Laramie Schwenke.
McLain had 12 points, while Erhard and Evans added nine.
It was one of the most complete games Havre has played all season, particularly in recent weeks.
"The last three games we played well for two and a half quarters but not at the end," Wirt said. "Other than a few lapses, we played well for 32 minutes tonight."
The Ponies will wrap up their regular season on Friday in Browning.
Lewistown 77, Havre 49
Havre 18 17 10 4 - 49
Lewistown 16 23 18 20 - 77
Havre - Amy McLain 8, Stephanie Flatau 11, Kelsey Evans 4, Alexa Lipp 11, Justine Erhard 4, Whitney Barnekoff 7, Rebecca Hilliard 4. Totals 17 9-16.
Lewistown - Alira Carpenter 30, Mallory Nelson 2, Sonya Rogers 17, Devin Nelson 4, Kar Conner 2, Kayla Horacek 11, Laura Anderson 11. Totals 32 11-15.
Team fouls - Havre 15, Lewistown 19. Fouled out - Nelson. 3-point goals - McLean 2, Lipp 3, Barnekoff, Rogers 2.
Havre 55, Malta 53
Malta 16 7 10 20 - 53
Havre 19 11 13 12 - 55
Malta - Laramie Schwenke 10, Roshon Nordlund 13, Kelly Pankratz 22, Whitney Jones 2, Megan Skiff 4, Shilo Lundstrom 2. Totals 18 8-13.
Havre - Amy McLain 12, Steph Flatau 5, Kelsey Evans 9, Alexa Lipp 3, Justine Erhard 9, Keelie Solomon 2, Whitney Barnekoff 8, Rebecca Hilliard 7. Totals 18 14-27.
Team Fouls - Malta 22, Havre 17. Fouled out - Erhard, Schwenke, Jones. 3-point goals - Nordlund 3, Pankratz 6, McLain 2, Evans 3.