Havre Daily News
The Havre Blue Ponies boys basketball team got a chance to measure itself against one of the best teams in all of Class A. When it was all said and done, the Ponies found out the hard way that they don't quite measure up, at least not yet.
The Ponies fell hard to a determined Butte Central team that used expert shooting and superior execution to hand the Ponies a disappointing 75-61 loss Saturday night at the HHS gymnasium.
“They are a very good basketball team, and we just aren't on their level right now,” HHS head coach Jon Barnhorst said. “But at least now we know what we need to work on and what we need to do to get to where we need to be.”
Early on in the first quarter it was evident that the Ponies were going to have their hands full. The Maroons came out hitting on all cylinders, scoring 24 points in the first quarter, including 13 points by Alex Murphy, to take an early 13-point lead at 24-11.
The Ponies had dug themselves a big hole against the one team they couldn't afford to, and it was a hole the Ponies never quite got themselves out of.
“They got off to a really hot start,” Barnhorst said. “They came out on fire and they shot the ball very well, and we never really recovered from that.”
Down by 14 early in the second quarter, the Ponies were in desperate need of a response. They provided one with a 10-0 run that got them back into the game at 27-23. They would climb back to within three points late in the second quarter before the Maroons surged back to a 38-31 halftime lead.
“We finally started doing a little bit better job of defending them,” Barnhorst said. “But then we had some turnovers and they were able to push their lead back up a little bit.”
Facing a seven-point deficit going into the third quarter, the Ponies came out recommitted to their defensive intensity and again closed the gap to just three points at 38-35. But offensive miscues hurt the Ponies and they failed to take advantage of opportunities presented to them. Led by the clutch shooting of Alex Murphy, the Maroons pushed their lead back to five at the end of the third.
The Ponies pulled within four after a Tanner Veis free throw, but never got closer than that.
The Maroons, who never trailed in the game, simply took over in crunch time and went on an 18-3 run that put the game on ice for good. The Ponies could not find a way to answer when they needed to the most. They were again haunted by a flurry of turnovers and missed free throws.
“They just executed much better in the fourth quarter,” Barnhorst said. “They are patient and they play very unselfish. We have got to find a way to execute better down the stretch or we are never going to be able to get over the hump.
“They are too good of a team to turn the ball over or miss free throws like we did,” he added. “They are just solid all-around, even defensively.”
The Ponies' two leading scorers on the year were held in check by the Maroons. Jeremy Giardina and Jared Weigel scored 14 points and eight points, respectively, in the losing effort.
Jeremiah Moog scored 10 points off the bench, and Logan Grant also contributed 10.
For the Maroons, Alex Murphy had a career night as he poured in 25 points to lead four Maroons in double figures, including an impressive 18 in the first half alone. Murphy hit five treys on the evening.
Shaugn McKean had a solid night with 16 points. Jake Stagnoli and Stephen Burns also hit double figures in scoring, with 16 points and 11 points, respectively.
All in all, it was a sobering night for the Blue Ponies, who had hoped to knock off the best Class A has to offer.
“This definitely shows how far we have to go and how much better we need to get,” Barnhorst said. “We still haven't put together a full four quarters of consistent basketball. And we are going to have to find a way to become more consistent, cut down on mistakes, and execute much better if we want to be able to compete with the top teams in our league. Because right now we are just not where we need to be.”
The Ponies will look to redeem themselves when they host Lewistown at 7:30 p.m Friday at the HHS gymnasium.
Butte Central 75 Havre 61
Butte Central 24 14 11 26 - 75
Havre 13 18 13 17 - 61
Butte Central - Jake Stagnoli 5, Shaugn McKean 16, Matt Porkorny 16, Billy Robinson 1, JT McIntyre 1, Stephen Burns 11, Alex Murphy 25. Totals: 23 22-32.
Havre - Tanner Donovan 7, Jeremiah Moog 10, Jeremy Giardina 14, Jared Weigel 8, Logan Grant 10, Tanner Veis 6, Mike Barton 6. Totals: 18 22-35.
Fouls - Butte Central 23, Havre 18. Fouled out - Veis. Three-pointers - McKean, Porkorny, Murphy 5, Giardina, Grant 2.