Havre Daily News
Taking care of business at home. That is the theme for the Havre High boys basketball team as it prepares for a pair of conference showdowns that will have a big impact on how the Central A standings will shake out at the end of the year.
The Ponies (4-1 conference, 7-3 overall) can take a big step toward wrapping up the No. 2 seed - and the choice of a first-round bye - at the divisional tournament if they can knock off Livingston (2-3 conference, 3-6 overall) and Belgrade (1-4 conference, 2-7 overall) at the HHS gymnasium this weekend.
Havre plays Livingston tonight at 5:45 and Belgrade on Saturday at 3 p.m.
“This is definitely a big weekend for us,” HHS head coach John Barnhorst said. “It's big in the sense that we are playing two conference home games against two teams we are playing for the second time around. And we can't afford to lose conference games at home.
“It's also big because if we can take care of business this weekend, it will give us a leg up on everyone else for the No. 2 seed and the bye,” he added.
With a grueling three-game road trip to finish the conference season looming, which includes trips to Browning, Lewistown and Butte Central, the Ponies need to take advantage of this golden opportunity to create some separation in the conference standings.
“We are looking at a tough stretch of road games ahead, so we can't afford to let one of these get away,” Barnhorst said. “We just need to take care of our business and get the job done.”
In the first of two rematches, the Ponies will take on the Livingston Rangers, a team they defeated in the first weekend of the season, 73-63.
In that contest, the Rangers gave Havre some problems with their guard play, and their ability not only to shoot the ball well from outside, but also to penetrate the Havre defense and force the Ponies into foul trouble.
The first time the two teams met, the Rangers applied pressure that forced the Ponies into 20 turnovers. The Rangers will no doubt look to apply that same pressure tonight.
“We have to find a way to stay in front of them defensively, and we have to handle their pressure better and take better care of the basketball,” Barnhorst said.
Havre will look to counter with its dynamic duo of Jeremy Giardina and Jared Weigel, who torched the Rangers in the first matchup, combining for 49 points and six 3-pointers. If the Rangers are going to have a chance tonight, they will have to find a way to hold Weigel and Giardina in check. The Ponies will also look to take advantage of their size down low with 6-8 Mike Barton, who averages 10 points and eight boards a night. Barton is coming off his best weekend as a Pony in wins over Lewistown and Malta.
“We are going to try and establish our inside game with Mike and try to take advantage of our size down low,” Barnhorst said. “Mike has been playing well of late and hopefully that can carry over to this weekend.”
On Saturday afternoon, the Ponies will play the Belgrade Panthers, a team they defeated 65-48 earlier in the year.
Belgrade will present a much different challenge than Livingston because the Panthers' style of play is so different.
Belgrade is a bigger team in stature than Livingston and is also much more physical. Belgrade relies heavily on forwards Jake Allmendinger, who is averaging 13.1 points per game as well as 8.1 rebounds a game, and Zach Halgren, who is the only other Panther to average double figures at 11 points per game.
Belgrade does not shoot the ball particularly well, averaging just 37 percent from the field and 49 percent from the charity stripe. Belgrade is forced to rely on defense and rebounding to stay in games.
The Panthers also will look to slow down the pace of the game because high-scoring games are not their specialty.
Which team can control the tempo of the game may go a long way in determining the outcome.
“Belgrade is a big, physical team that is going to try and slow the game down,” Barnhorst said. “It is going to be important that we rebound well and keep them off the glass. Besides that, we just have to take care of the ball and execute on the offensive end. If we do those things we should be alright.”