Havre Daily News
Fifteen years is a long time. Fifteen years ago Vanilla Ice was popular and the Gulf War was making headlines. Fifteen years ago was also the last time the Havre Blue Ponies boys basketball team completed a season sweep of the CMR Rustlers.
That is, of course, until last night.
The Ponies capped off an electric evening at the HHS gymnasium with a 60-55 victory as the Ponies not only earned a big win, but also earned themselves a place in Havre High history.
“This win is a pretty big morale booster,” senior point guard Jeremy Giardina said. “It feels good to know we can compete with teams at the Class AA level.”
Early on, things didn't look too good for the Ponies as a determined Rustler squad jumped out to a 7-0 lead, looking to erase the memories of their embarrassing 64-46 loss at home just three weeks ago.
The Ponies would answer the Rustlers' onslaught soon enough as they went on a 10-0 run to end the first quarter and give themselves a 10-7 lead.
“We knew they were going to come out fired up and ready to play,” HHS head coach John Barnhorst said. “We talked all week about matching their intensity and emotion, and we did that well enough tonight to win the game.”
The Rustlers would again get off to a good start in the second quarter as they outscored the Ponies 14-6 to take a 21-16 lead. However, the Ponies would again show their resiliency as they answered the challenge with a 7-0 run that would eventually lead to a 25-23 halftime lead.
“Our kids came out and competed hard,” Barnhorst said. “You couldn't ask for much more from that standpoint.”
The third quarter quite possibly offered the defining moment of the game, as Andrew Nunez's spike of the basketball at midcourt just moments after a disputed noncall by the officials seemed to raise the level of intensity a notch or two in a game that was already intense.
In a back-and-forth third quarter, CMR would take the lead at 34-33 after a Jasen Remus basket.
The momentum swing was short-lived, as the Ponies' Tanner Veis quickly stole it back with two big baskets in the final moments of the third quarter to give the Ponies a lead they did not relinquish.
“We came out in the second half with a lot more emotion and intensity,” Barnhorst said. “And we made some big plays down the stretch.”
After a Giardina 3-pointer increased the HHS lead to six at 40-34, the Rustlers seemed to be in some trouble, but a quick spurt brought them back to within two points at 41-39.
Led by Giardina, the Ponies embarked on a 9-1 run to go up 50-40 and essentially put the game on ice.
The Rustlers made one final push late in the game, but it was too little too late. Despite a string of turnovers and missed free throws, the Ponies hung on for a triumph that was 15 years in the making.
“We didn't play that well early on,” Giardina said. “We are kind of a second- half team and in the second half we played with a lot of fire and emotion, and we made a lot of big plays.”
Havre was led by Giardina's 19 points, capped off by numerous clutch shots. Weigel also had another solid night with 15 points, and junior Tanner Donovan made some big plays off the bench that may not show up in the box score but were a big part in the Ponies' victory.
“We got some good minutes from our bench tonight,” Barnhorst said. “Guys like Donovan and (Jeremiah) Moog were able to stand out and give us some really solid minutes.”
On the defensive end, the Ponies were able to keep the Rustlers in check most of the night as Steve Wasson led the way with just 14 points. Remus was the only other Rustler to score in double figures as he notched 10 points.
“I liked the way we battled and competed on the boards,” Barnhorst said. “We couldn't ask for a much better effort than we got tonight.”
Despite the victory, the Ponies have some areas that will need improvement as they look toward bigger and better things in the 2005-06 season, such as taking better care of the basketball and not turning the ball over in key situations.
“We need to execute better than we did at the end of the game tonight,” Barnhorst said. “We have to get better if we want to compete with the better teams in our league.
“But, we found a way to win, even though we didn't play our best basketball,” he added. “Good teams find a way to win games when they don't play their best, and tonight we made just enough plays to get the win.”
The Ponies (4-2) will host the Butte Central Maroons Saturday night at the HHS gymnasium at 5 p.m.
Ponies 60, Rustlers 55
C.M. Russell High 7 16 11 21 - 55
Havre High 10 15 12 23 - 60
C.M. Russell High - Zach Agamenoni 0-0 0-0 0, Andrew Nunez 2-5 1-2 5, Alex Smith 2-4 0-0 6, Steve Wasson 5-10 4-6 14, Nick Richards 1-1 0-0 2, David Anderson 2-5 0-0 4, Kevin Hatley 0-1 0-0 0, Tanner Bleskin 0-1 0-0 0, Brad Goodman 3-8 0-2 6, Kelvin Steele 4-11 0-0 8, Jasen Remus 4-8 2-5 10. Totals: 23-54 7-15 55.
Havre High - Jeremiah Moog 1-2 1-2 3, Scott Miller 1-1 0-0 2, Jeremy Giardina 3-6 6-8 14, Jared Weigel 6-11 4-6 18, Logan Grant 0-1 0-1 0, Tanner Veis 5-6 1-2 11, Mike Barton 1-2 2-6 4, Tanner Donovan 2-2 2-4 6. Totals: 20-33 16-29 60.
Total fouls: CMR 26, Havre 20. Fouled out: Steele, Remus. Three-point goals: Smith 2, Giardina 2, Weigel 2. Rebounds: CMR 28 (Goodman 6, Remus 6), Havre 28 (Weigel 9). Steals: Goodman 3, Weigel 4. Turnovers: CMR 13, Havre 14.