By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sportsfirstname.lastname@example.org
Friday night was not kind to the Havre High girls basketball team as they were unceremoniously bounced from the 2005 Central A divisional basketball tournament by the Belgrade Panthers.
Havre had not played for almost 48 hours since its opening-round loss to Butte Central on Wednesday night. But the Ponies were up to the task early on as they battled Belgrade to a 26-26 tie in the first half. Belgrade was able to tie the contest by outscoring the Ponies 16-13 in the second quarter.
In the third quarter Belgrade edged ahead of the Ponies by limiting Havre to just nine points in the period. The five- point lead Belgrade had heading into the fourth quarter would grow several times thanks in large part to the stellar play of Belgrade junior Hannah Benson. But as quickly as the Panthers upped their lead, Havre stormed back into the game thanks to some timely shooting by senior Justine Erhard. Erhard canned a critical 3-pointer late in the game that kept the Ponies within striking distance.
Belgrade's poor free-throw shooting also kept the Ponies in the game. The Ponies were forced to put Belgrade on the free-throw line in the game's final two minutes and the Panthers did not capitalize. In the final minute, Belgrade missed seven straight free throws. Havre had a chance to tie the game with a 3-pointer at the end of the contest but the shot was off the mark and Belgrade escaped with a 3-point win, 53-50.
The loss ended Havre's season with an 8-12 overall record.
First-year Blue Pony head coach Jason Wirt said turnovers prevented his team from moving into Saturday's consolation game. The Ponies committed 26 turnovers against the Panthers.
"We just turned the ball over way too much," Wirt said. "We hadn't had turnover problems since the end of December, but they really hurt us against Belgrade.
"I thought we played really well defensively against Belgrade," Wirt added. "But we just gave them way too many extra possessions because of turnovers and that was the big difference."
In her last game as a Blue Pony, point guard Amy McLain scored 10 points in the loss. Havre also got another outstanding performance from junior Steph Flatau, who matched McLain with 10 points. The Panthers were paced by Benson's game-high 16 points.
While the Ponies' season ended in disappointment, Wirt could not have been happier with the team.
"I told the kids after the game that I have no regrets about the decision I made to come here" to his alma mater, he said. "This has been a great group of kids to coach and I enjoyed every single day of this season. I only hope they had as much fun this year as I did."
Belgrade 53 Havre 50
Havre 13 13 9 15 - 50
Belgrade 10 16 14 13 - 53
Havre - Amy McLain 10, Stephanie Flatau 10, Alexa Lipp 8, Justine Erhard 7, Keelie Solomon 2, Whitney Barnekoff 8, Rebecca Hilliard 5. Totals - 19-2 6-11
Belgrade - Necia Knuchel 6, Jessica Kallestad 4, Rachel Frost 5, Elizabeth Coughlin 2, Keri Hein 12, Hannah Benson 16, Jenn Smith 8. Totals - 18-3 8-19
Total fouls - Havre 21, Belgrade 17. Fouled out - Erhard, Smith. 3-point goals - Lipp, Erhard, Knuchel, Hein, Benson.