Havre Daily News
It wasn't pretty. In fact, at times it was flat-out ugly. Yet, despite not having their “A” game this weekend, the Havre High boys basketball team found a way to get the job done.
The Ponies entered the weekend at 4-1 in conference play, knowing that if they could knock off conference foes Livingston and Belgrade, they would get a stranglehold on second place in the Central A Conference.
After many trials and tribulations, the Ponies did what they set out to do. They swept Livingston and Belgrade, giving them a leg up in the race for second place and a first-round bye at the divisional tournament.
On Friday night, the Ponies found a way to overcome an impressive performance by the Livingston Rangers and pull out a dramatic 88-77 double-overtime victory.
Havre got off to a sluggish start and led just 16-15 at the end of the first quarter. In the second quarter the Ponies extended their lead to eight points at 35-27 and it seemed that it would only be a matter of time before the Ponies ran away with the game. However, the Rangers were not going down without a fight.
Havre came out in the second half and quickly extended the lead to 15. Then, slowly but surely, the Rangers began to chip away at the deficit.
The Rangers ended the third quarter on an 11-2 run that pulled them to within three points at 51-48.
In the fourth quarter the two teams went back and forth, trading baskets for much of the period, but the Rangers could not quite pull even with the Ponies.
Finally, with under a minute to play, the Rangers caught the Ponies when Ryan Wulf hit a 3-pointer as he was fading out of bounds. That tied the game at 64-64, sending it into overtime.
The Rangers rode the momentum gained from Wulf's clutch trey to a lead early on in the first overtime. With less than a minute to play they led the Ponies 69-66.
The Ponies had possession and one final chance to tie the game. Jeremy Giardina found an open Logan Grant, who proceeded to knock down a dramatic game-tying 3-point shot that would send the game to a second overtime period.
“I came open after a good screen by Mike Barton, I caught the ball and shot it,” Grant said. “It felt good the entire way, and I knew that it was good as soon as it left my hand.”
Grant's clutch shot seemed to suck the life out of the Rangers. The Ponies took the lead in the second overtime and they were helped by 14 straight made free throws by Giardina.
“They (Livingston) are a pretty good team,” HHS head coach Jon Barnhorst said. “They have pretty good guard play and they are a very quick team. They shot the ball well and made a lot of big plays.
“But in the end we made some big plays too,” he added. “Logan hit a big shot, and we got some big defensive stops when we needed to.”
The Ponies were led by Giardina's game-high 31 points. The Ponies also had three other players in double-figures, as Jared Weigel put in 19 points on the night, Grant poured in 13 and Barton added 11.
Livingston was led by the clutch performance of Wulf, who scored 19 points on the evening.
“We just didn't play well with the lead,” Barnhorst said. “We got a comfortable lead in the third quarter and we had no business letting them back into the game. We are just fortunate that we got the lead in overtime and forced them to foul us and put us on the free- throw line.”
On Saturday afternoon, the Ponies were forced to turn around and play host to the Belgrade Panthers less than 24 hours after their thrilling victory over Livingston.
Right from the opening tip the Ponies appeared to be a little sluggish again, as they managed just eight points in the first quarter to give them an 8-7 lead.
Things didn't get a whole lot better in the second, as both teams were playing tired from tough games the night before. However, despite their unspectacular play, the Ponies led 20-16 at the half.
“They were two completely different games,” Barnhorst said. “But that is just kind of the way that Belgrade plays. They are big and physical, and the game turned into a knockdown, drag- out, defensive battle.”
Fortunately, the Ponies found enough energy to pull away in the second half on their way to a 42-32 victory.
Barton scored a game-high 13 points in the victory to go along with the 10 points from Giardina.
“It wasn't pretty, but we will take it,” Barnhorst said. “We didn't play our best this weekend, but you are not always going to play your best. So, it was nice to see that we could still win without our best game and that we can have success playing different styles of basketball.”
Havre (9-3) will host Class B Cut Bank on Friday night. The Ponies will also travel to Class AA Great Falls High on Saturday afternoon.
Havre 88, Livingston 77 (OT)
Livingston 15 12 21 16 13 - 77
Havre 16 19 16 13 24 - 88
Livingston - Ryan Wulf 19, Johnny Kaiser 19, Craig Hutchinson 9, Mychal McNamee 15, Mike Benvenga 8, Andrew Foster 5, Greg Knapp 7. Totals: 28 12-21.
Havre - Jeremiah Moog 6, Jeremy Giardina 31, Jared Weigel 19, Logan Grant 13, Tanner Veis 8, Mike Barton 11. Totals: 25 28-49.
Fouls - Livingston 20, Havre 15. Fouled out - Foster, Weigel. Three-pointers - Wulf 3, Kaiser 3, McNamee 3, Giardina 3, Weigel 2, Grant 3.
Havre 42, Belgrade 32
Belgrade 7 9 6 10 - 32
Havre 8 12 9 13 - 42
Belgrade - Kolten Knatterud 2, Garrett Schultz 7, Rowdy Peuse 2, Ben Ward 5, Jake Allmendinger 5, Kole Mickolio 11. Totals: 13 5-7
Havre - Jeremiah Moog 2, Scott Miller 2, Jeremy Giardina 10, Jared Weigel 7, Logan Grant 3, Tanner Veis 5, Mike Barton 13. Totals: 13 14-22.
Total fouls - Belgrade 16, Havre 12. Fouled out - none. 3-pointers - Allmendinger, Giardina, Grant.