Chris Peterson Havre Daily News email@example.com
An opportunity to pull an unlikely upset barely slipped through the hands of the Havre High boys basketball team. The Blue Ponies squandered a 13- point second-half lead on their way to 66-56 loss to Class AA CMR Thursday night at the Havre High gymnasium. Havre started the second half with a commanding 40-27 lead, and early in the third quarter the Ponies’ lead was pushed to 48-35. But that was when things began to fall apart. Tanner Bleskin and Andrew Nunez hit back-to-back 3-pointers for the Rustlers, cutting the lead to 48-41 and sparking CMR to a 13-0 run that tied the game at 48-48 early in the fourth quarter. Finally, the Rustlers completed their comeback, taking the lead on a basket by Zack Agamenoni, giving them a 50-48 lead that they would never relinquish. The Ponies tried to rally late in the game, but just couldn’t overcome their bout with turnovers as they finished with 26 for the game, most coming by way of a suffocating CMR second-half press. In the end, the Rustlers iced the game at the free-throw line, hitting 10- of-13 foul shots in the fourth quarter to seal a dramatic win. “Anytime you come up to Havre and come away with a victory you feel good,” CMR head coach John Cislo said. “We applied pressure to them all game long and finally we were able to wear them down in the second half and get some easy baskets. “It was a really hard fought game,” he added. “Both teams played really hard and tonight we beat a pretty good team.” The first half was a completely different story for both teams. Chris Brandt scored 17 first-quarter points to spark Havre to a 23-17 lead at the end of the first quarter. CMR closed the gap to 28-24 midway through the second quarter, but the Ponies finished the half in a flurry, going on a 12-3 to end the half. “I thought we did a good job of handling their pressure in the first half,” HHS head coach Jon Barnhorst said.
“But their pressure just wears on you as the game goes on, and it definitely wore on us. “I think that was a big reason why we struggled in the second half,” he added. “Our passes weren’t as good and we just did things a little bit slower than we did in the first half.” Brandt finished up with a team-high 21 points for the Ponies. The senior guard drilled four treys on the night. Andy Pester had eight points and Jeremiah Moog added seven points in the disappointing loss. “We shot the ball pretty well in the first half,” Barnhorst said. “And in the second half, we needed to slow down the pace of the game at times and work for a good shot and we just didn’t do that.” Bleskin sparked the Rustlers with a game-high 23 points, 17 of which came in the second half. Agamenoni contributed with 15 points in the win, and Nunez also finished with 13 points for the Rustlers. “They (CMR) shot the ball awfully well in the second half,” Barnhorst said. “They did a really good job of getting the ball inside to Agamenoni and he was able to seal off our defender and finish around the basket. “We just didn’t answer the runs that they made at us late in the game with baskets and we just turned the ball over to much,” he added. “That probably ended up being the difference in the game.” The Ponies were without senior forward Mike Sharp due to illness and his status for tonight’s game against Great Falls High is also up in the air. HHS (2-2) will look to rebound from the tough loss, when it travels to Swarthout Fieldhouse to take on the Bison in the annual battle for the Ole’ Goat. That game will kick off at 7:30 and it will close out 2006 for the Ponies. “I couldn’t be happier with the effort the kids gave tonight,” Barnhorst said. “They played extremely hard and that is all that I can really ask of them. Hopefully we can learn from some of the mistakes we made tonight and just find a way to get from them, starting tomorrow night with Great Falls High.”