Havre Daily News
After suffering three straight losses, the Havre High boys basketball team found its back against the wall this weekend. Out of options, the Ponies had no choice but to band together and begin to fight their way out of the losing streak.
That is exactly what they did.
Saturday night at the HHS gymnasium, the Ponies paid tribute to their seniors at their final home game and overwhelmed the Malta Mustangs 95-55 in a fitting finale for Havre's senior-laden squad.
Both teams came out firing, but the Ponies were playing at a furious pace and soon it was apparent that Malta could not keep up. After a 17-2 run, the Ponies put themselves out in front for good.
Ahead 27-11 at the end of the first quarter, things continued to go Havre's way. The Ponies were firing on all cylinders offensively and took a 49-29 halftime lead.
“We had a great first half,” HHS head coach John Barnhorst said. “Everything seemed to come easy for us. We were running really smooth offensively, and it's by far the best we have played on offense all year long.”
The second half was a continuation of the Ponies' shooting exhibition, as they nailed 14 three-pointers in the game, including eight in the second half. Six Ponies hit shots from beyond the arc, led by Jared Weigel, Logan Grant and Jeremy Giardina, who each connected on three treys.
The Ponies used their unusually explosive offense and their always-stingy defense to build a 43-point lead on their way to the easy win.
“I am really happy for the seniors,” Barnhorst said. “They have been very committed to this team and they have worked hard, and finally all their hard work is beginning to pay off.”
Six Ponies scored in double figures, led by senior Mike Barton, who scored 16 points, 14 of which came in his dominant first half. Fellow seniors Giardina and Weigel added 15 points apiece in their home finale. Senior forwards Grant and Tanner Veis each contributed 13 points.
Malta was led by Jordan Hould, who scored a game-high 18 points in the losing effort.
On Friday night, the Ponies traveled to Lewistown needing a win to lock up a first-round bye in the upcoming Central A divisional tournament.
The Ponies roared out to an early 22-6 lead and quickly demoralized a Lewistown team that was celebrating its own senior night. By halftime, the Ponies led 38-22 and the game was all but over.
“We knew that we were going to have to come out and match their intensity because it was senior night and they were going to be fired up,” Barnhorst said. “But we did that and then some. It almost seemed like we were playing on our senior night instead of them playing like it was theirs.”
The two teams played evenly in the second half. But besides making one small run in the third quarter, the Eagles never posed a serious threat as the Ponies cruised to a 70-55 win.
The Ponies were led by a game-high 18 points from Weigel. Barton added 14 points. Giardina contributed 10 points.
The Eagles had only two players in double figures, led by Evan Stokken's 17 points.
“Jeremy played really well. He didn't have his best game scoring, but he played one of his best games overall all year,” Barnhorst said. “Jared also had a really solid game shooting the ball, and Mike absolutely dominated down low.”
After two impressive victories, the Ponies finally seem like they have gelled offensively and, for the first time all season, they have developed a good rhythm on offense. That is not a good sign for the rest of the teams in the state, because if Havre can pair a potent offense with its suffocating defense, the Ponies could be very tough come tournament time.
“It was a very good weekend and we played really well together,” Barnhorst said. “We are starting to come together at the right time. Playing well at this time of the year is important. We are playing with a lot of confidence right now, and if we can keep coming together we are going to be tough to beat.”
The Ponies (11-6) finish off their regular season when they travel to Browning on Friday night.
Ponies 70, Eagles 55
Havre 22 16 11 21 - 70
Lewistown 6 16 11 22 - 55
Havre - Tanner Donovan 5, Jeremiah Moog 3, Scott Miller 3, Jeremy Giardina 10, Jared Weigel 18, Logan Grant 9, Tanner Veis 8, Mike Barton 14. Totals - 29 14-22 70.
Lewistown - Max Pearson 7, Kyle Rector 4, Evan Stokken 17, Kam Pearson 5, Logan Mossey 2, Colby Tognetti 10, Matt Burns 7, Paul Buckentin 3. Totals - 23 14-19 55.
Total fouls - Havre 20, Lewistown 18. Fouled out - J. Giardina. 3-pointers - J. Weigel, L. Grant, C. Tognetti 2, P. Buckentin, E. Stokken, K. Pearson
Ponies 95, Mustangs 55
Malta 11 18 16 10 - 55
Havre 27 22 21 25 - 95
Malta - Davy Concon 2, Curtis Darrah 2, Lyndon Matthews 7, Colter Schwenke 3, Jordan Hould 18, Brian Tatafu 11, Jeremy Azure 8, Aaron DeVries 2, Tommy Christofferson 2. Totals: 21 8-14.
Havre - Tanner Donovan 7, Jeremiah Moog 10, Scott Miller 6, Jeremy Giardina 15, Jared Weigel 15, Logan Grant 13, Tanner Veis 13, Mike Barton 16. Totals: 38 5-11.
Fouls - Malta 14, Havre 13. Fouled out - none. Three-pointers - Matthews, Schwenke, Tatafu 3, Moog 2, Miller 2, Giardina 3, Weigel 3, Grant 3, Veis.