Havre Daily News
The Havre High girls basketball team came into the weekend on a roll. After another strong performance, the Ponies are beginning to look like a true contender - not in only in the Central A Conference, but in all of Class A basketball.
The Ponies hosted the Livingston Rangers on Friday night in the first of two straight conference games at home.
Livingston came into the game still within striking distance of Havre in the conference standings, so the Ponies could not afford to drop a game to them, particularly at home.
Havre got out of the gates slowly, and despite having the lead early on, the Ponies found themselves trailing the Rangers 10-7 at the end of the first quarter.
The Ponies fought and clawed in the second quarter and eventually reclaimed the lead, going into halftime ahead 19-18.
“We didn't really come out ready to play at the beginning of the game,” HHS head coach Jason Wirt said. “They made us work for everything we got. Luckily our defense was able to keep us in the game until we were able to make some adjustments.”
The Ponies came out in the second half with a determined effort and went on a much-needed 8-0 run that essentially gave them control of the game.
Havre completely dominated the Rangers defensively in the second half, and even more specifically in the third quarter, when they held Livingston to just six points. Thanks to that great defense, Havre took a comfortable 35-24 lead into the final stanza.
In the fourth quarter, the Ponies quickly put to rest any dreams of a Livingston comeback, as they maintained a double-digit advantage on their way to a 52-35 victory.
“In the second half, we were able to make the adjustments that we needed to make, and we got some better shots and didn't settle for shots as much as we did in the first half,” Wirt said.
The HHS defense held the Rangers' two leading scorers, Sara Meyer and Brianna Ackerman, to four and seven points, respectively.
“Coming into the game, we knew they had four pretty good scorers, and our game plan was to try and force someone besides one of those four to try and beat us,” Wirt said. “Lena Suek did a great job of holding Meyer to only four points. She is so strong defensively. She just leans on girls all night and eventually she just wears them out.”
The Ponies were led by senior Alexa Lipp, who scored a game-high 17 points, including three treys. Steph Flatau had another solid night with nine points.
On Saturday night, the Ponies looked to extend their winning streak to six games and improve to 6-1 in conference play with a victory over Belgrade.
Early on it looked like the Ponies were simply in a different league than the Panthers. They jumped out to a big lead and cruised to a 72-25 blowout win.
“We came out and got after them right away with some pressure defense that allowed us to get some easy baskets and set the tone,” Wirt said.
Havre's blowout win over Belgrade was a result of a dominating first-half performance at both ends of the floor. The Ponies closed the first quarter on a 14-0 run and that run continued into the second stanza. Havre's defense forced the Panthers into 13 first-half turnovers, and Keelie Solomon opened the second quarter with three straight steals that were converted into scores.
The Ponies also closed the half with 18 unanswered points, and they held Belgrade scoreless for an 11-minute stretch that ultimately gave Havre an insurmountable 41-12 halftime lead.
The Ponies had another strong effort on the defensive end of the floor as they held an opponent to under 40 points for the fifth time in their last six outings.
Flatau led all scorers on the night with 14 points, and Suek continued her strong play as she poured in 12 points.
“Everyone had a good night, and even though we actually got off to a slow start offensively, we were able to get some easy baskets because of our pressure defense,” Wirt said. “Kelsey Evans had a very good outing for us. We were able to get a lot of easy baskets in transition because of her passing and her ability to get the ball to the right spot on the floor. She also did a great job of finding our shooters and getting them the ball in good spots on the floor.”
The Ponies were so strong defensively against Belgrade that not a single Panther player scored in double figures. Lyndsey Green led the way for the Panthers with seven points in the loss.
Now, after winning six games in a row, the Ponies (6-1 conference, 8-4 overall) are playing with as much confidence as anyone and they have made the doubt created with their 2-4 start disappear.
“Every week we talk about what our goal is,” Wirt said. “We want to end the drought of not being in the state tournament. We are built to play with the best and hopefully we can keep getting better so we can peak at the right time.”
The Ponies will be back in action on Friday night when they travel to Class B Cut Bank. Havre will host Class AA Great Falls High on Saturday night.
Havre 52, Livingston 35
Livingston 10 8 6 11 - 35
Havre 7 12 17 12 - 52
Livingston - Bailey Goodwine 1, Sara Meyer 4, Sage Indendi 5, Lydia Thiry 6, Lilly Davaz 3, Brianna Ackerman 7, Brittany Carlson 2, Jaime Van Horn 2, Kelsey Joronen 2. Totals - 13 5-10 35
Havre - Tricia Samson 3, Erica Briese 2, Steph Flatau 9, Hope Hedges 1, Kelsey Evans 7, Katie Mariani 2, Alexa Lipp 17, Keelie Solomon 5, Lena Suek 6. Totals - 15 19-27 52 l
Total fouls - Livingston 20, Havre 13. Fouled out - none. 3-pointers - A. Lipp 3, S. Indendi, L. Thiry 2, L. Davaz.
Havre 72, Belgrade 25
Belgrade 7 5 3 10 - 25
Havre 15 26 14 17 - 72
Belgrade - Necia Knuchel 3, Jess Kallestad 1, Jill Hoblitt 2, Lyndsey Green 7, Sadie Locken 5, Brittney Harvey 4, Brittany Larsen 3. Totals: 9 6-15.
Havre - Tricia Samson 8, Erica Briese 2, Steph Flatau 14, Hope Hedges 4, Kelsey Evans 5, Katie Mariani 8, Alexa Lipp 6, Keelie Solomon 7, Steph Stremecha 6, Lena Suek 12. Totals: 30 10-17.
Total fouls - Belgrade 15, Havre 12. Fouled out - Locken. Technical foul - Locken. 3-pointers - Knuchel, Evans, Suek.