Havre Daily News
The Havre High boys basketball team will face a big test this weekend with three games in three nights.
The Ponies will face the Class AA Great Falls Bison tonight at home, defending Class B state champion Cut Bank on Friday in Cut Bank, and Central A Conference foe Browning on Saturday.
So, by the end of the weekend, the Ponies will know what kind of team they have as they move along in the 2005-06 season.
The Ponies open up the three-game stretch with their home-opener tonight against GFH. The Pony-Bison rivalry goes back a long time and there is definitely no love lost when these two teams hit the hardwood.
Although it may be just another game for the Bison, the Ponies take this game personally as it's another chance to knock off one of the big dogs of AA basketball.
The game is also another chance to get back the Ole Goat trophy that has begun to rot away in some remote corner of the GFH campus. In order for Havre High to take back the traveling trophy, the Ponies will have to defeat the Bison in both meetings this season.
Even though it's a nonconference tilt, the stakes should be high when the Ponies and the Bison hook up tonight at 7.
“The kids are fired up for this game,” HHS head coach John Barnhorst said. “They are excited about going out and showing the home fans what they can do.”
The Ponies will be led by senior standouts Jeremy Giardina and Jared Weigel, who both played superbly last weekend in two Havre High victories. Havre will also be counting on the big man in the middle, Mike Barton, who averaged 11 rebounds over the first two games.
“We need to shoot the ball well and be physical,” Barnhorst said. “We need Mike to be a big presence inside, and we need Jeremy and Jared to shoot it well.”
GFH returns some talented players from a year ago, including Bobby Howard, who is widely considered one of the top players in all of Class AA. He is going to give the Ponies some matchup problems because of his height, and containing him may hold the key to victory for the Ponies.
Sharpshooters Shaun Tatarka and Eric Chaon will also pose some problems for Blue Pony defenders, but Barnhorst wants his team to worry more about what they are doing than whatever threats their opponents bring to the table.
“We just want to focus on playing good defense and rebounding,” Barnhorst said. “If we can do those things well, we feel like we have a pretty good chance of winning. So we aren't too worried about what our opposition is going to do. We just want to do what we do well.”
Friday night won't be any easier for the Ponies as they take to the road to lock horns with defending Class B state champion Cut Bank. This should be a big challenge for the Ponies, as they will have to find a way to win against a solid team in a hostile environment.
“They are going to be up to play us,” Barnhorst said. “It gives them an opportunity to play a Class A school and have some good competition. It's going to be a tough one, especially on the road.”
Cut Bank is led by all-state selection Jeff Larson, who is an extremely talented player. Larson is not the only weapon for Cut Bank, though, because they are an experienced team with a lot of pieces back from last year's state championship team.
“They are a really well-balanced team,” Barnhorst said. “We are not going to be able to stop them, but we need to control them. We need to defend and rebound, and if we do those two things, we will be fine.”
The third part of the Ponies' triple-header this weekend will be Central A rival Browning at home.
Browning is still in the rebuilding process, but it does have some young talent and will look to force the Ponies into an up-tempo ballgame. However, the Ponies do not intend to run with the Indians and they will look to play half-court basketball to take Browning out of its comfort zone.
“We are not going to run with them,” Barnhorst said. “We will look to fast break at times, but most of the time we want to run our half-court offense and focus on breaking their press, getting the ball inside, and playing our game. If we do those things, we should be fine.”
The Ponies head into a difficult game stretch this weekend, with the hopes of sweeping all three games and continuing their solid start to the season. It should be an exciting weekend, with an archrival, a defending state champ and a conference foe, all jampacked into one big weekend for Blue Pony basketball.
“Right now we wouldn't be happy if you told me we won two out of three,” Barnhorst said. “Maybe come Sunday we would be happy with that, but not right now.”
“We are just hoping to keep getting better and improve in areas that need improving, such as defense, rebounding and turnovers,” he added. “Right now we are concerned just about us getting better and continuing to build confidence.”
Tonight's game between Havre High and GFH will get under way at 7 at the HHS gymnasium.