Havre Daily News
The Havre High boys basketball team has two chances to earn a little redemption this weekend as the Ponies look to avenge a couple of early-season losses.
Tonight the Ponies (9-3) will host the Cut Bank Wolves, a team that defeated Havre 51-41 at the beginning of the season in Cut Bank.
The Ponies' 41 points on just 32 percent shooting from the field in Cut Bank was their lowest offensive output of the season, and if they want to have a chance to knock off the Wolves this time around, they will have to improve in those two areas.
“They are a pretty good defensive team,” HHS head coach John Barnhorst said. “They are going to come out and try to pressure us and we are going to have to handle that.
“However, we were able to get some good looks at the basket in the first game,” he added. “We just didn't knock them down. We have to shoot the ball better.”
The Ponies will also have to concentrate on the defensive end of the floor as they try to slow down a Cut Bank offense that is not necessarily explosive, but if allowed to find its rhythm, can be very efficient.
“We don't want to let them get in a rhythm offensively, so we are going to try and mix things up a little bit and give them some different looks,” Barnhorst said. “We have to get after them and pressure them because if they get in a comfort zone they are difficult to stop.”
The No. 2 Wolves (9-2) have one of Class B's top players in 6-4 senior Jeff Larson. Larson is a two-sport standout and recently announced he is going to attend the University of Montana, and will play football for the Grizzlies.
Another key to the Ponies' success against the Wolves will be getting more production out of their top scorers. In the first meeting, Jared Weigel, Jeremy Giardina and Michael Barton combined for just 30 points.
All three players were held below their season average. Weigel was held to just seven points in the game, eight points below his season average.
“They are a very good basketball team and they don't have a lot of weaknesses,” Barnhorst said. “They are hard to stop because they don't just rely on one player to score.
“We didn't play that well against them down there and we still had a chance to win in the fourth quarter. So if we go out and play well for four quarters we feel like we have a pretty good chance,” he added. “It will be an interesting challenge for us.”
On Saturday afternoon the Ponies will visit the Great Falls High Bison as they look to avenge a four-point loss to their archrival earlier this year in Havre.
If the Ponies are to knock off the Bison in Great Falls, they will have to find a way to contain junior Bobby Howard, who was virtually unstoppable when the teams met the first time around. Howard is a big player who can score from both the perimeter and in the post area. He provides a dual threat that will certainly cause problems for the Pony defense.
“Howard is a very good player and he is a tough matchup for us,” Barnhorst said. “We have to find a way to keep him in check. However, they have other guys who can shoot the ball and score, so we can't just focus on him and forget about everyone else.”
Havre will counter Howard's one-man show with its dynamic duo of Giardina and Weigel.
Giardina leads the Ponies in scoring at 20.1 points per game and is the sparkplug for a sometimes inconsistent offense. Weigel averages 15.6 points per game to go along with nine rebounds.
“We just need to play more consistent offensively,” Barnhorst said. “We have had spurts this year when we have played well and others when we didn't play so well. It's getting to that time of the year when we need to start gelling and play with more consistency.”
Although nonconference games don't carry the same importance as conference games, this is still an important weekend for Havre as the Ponies look to start the stretch run with a pair of big victories.
“We approach every game the same way. We can't afford to approach any game different than any other,” Barnhorst said. “It is important that we play well, and if we could find a way to win, it would be a big morale booster and a nice confidence builder.”
Tonight's game between the No. 5 Ponies and Cut Bank will tip off at 7:30 at the HHS gymnasium. Saturday's game between HHS and GFH will get under way at 4:30 p.m. at the Bison Fieldhouse in Great Falls.