Havre Daily News
Every season, a basketball team has a game on its schedule that it looks to as a statement game - a game that needs to be won to prove a point as well as for confidence and momentum.
Such a game presents itself for the Havre High boys basketball team this weekend when the Ponies face top-ranked Butte Central on Saturday. Before their big tilt versus Butte Central, the Ponies (3-2) will welcome the CMR Rustlers (1-4) into the HHS gymnasium tonight and they will be looking for their first season sweep of the Rustlers since the 1990-91 season.
The Ponies notched a 64-46 win over the Rustlers in Great Falls in their final game before the holiday break. However, the Ponies may find the riding a little rougher this time around as the Rustlers have had two weeks to think about the embarrassing loss.
They will no doubt be ready, come the opening tip.
“They (CMR) are going to be fired up and ready to play,” HHS head coach John Barnhorst said. “They didn't like losing to us at their place. I think they are going to come in and play us very well.”
If the Ponies are going to be successful against the Rustlers, they will have to win the rebounding battle and keep the Rustlers out of the paint, much like they did in Great Falls.
Havre will also need senior Jared Weigel to continue his hot shooting and hard-nosed rebounding.
“We are going to have to be physical and win the battle of the boards,” Barnhorst said. “We have to attack them inside and control the paint. We want to make them shoot outside shots.
“We are probably going to face more pressure this time, but we just need to do what we do and shoot the ball well,” he added.
After the Rustlers, the Ponies face the highly touted Butte Central Maroons, a team many believe to be the favorite to win it all in Class A this season. The game will present the Ponies with a chance to see how they stack up against the best the state has to offer.
“It is going to be interesting to see how we match up against a team of their caliber,” Barnhorst said. “I am excited to see how we play them.”
The Maroons will present problems for the Ponies, not with their size, but with their outstanding guard play.
The Ponies will need a big night from senior point guard Jeremy Giardina in order to hang in against the Maroons.
Senior Michael Barton will also be heavily relied upon, as the Ponies will look to exploit the Maroons' lack of size down low with the 6-8 senior.
“I think the one advantage we have on them is in the paint,” Barnhorst said. “We have to defend the perimeter well because they are explosive on offense, and we need to win the boards and get inside on them.”
When posed with the possibility of sweeping the two games, Barnhorst said it would be a big boost to his team in more ways than one.
“It would be a big confidence boost for us,” he said. “We have yet to pull together four quarters of good basketball this year, and to beat two quality teams, we are going to have to play consistent for four quarters. It would be big to know we can do that against two tough opponents.”
Havre will take on CMR tonight at 7:30 and Butte Central on Saturday at 5 p.m., with both games at the HHS gymnasium.
The HHS girls basketball team will also will be faced with a difficult task this weekend. They will be asked to play three straight games, including squaring off against the No.1-ranked Class AA CMR Rustlers tonight in Great Falls.
The Ponies (2-3) will see their first action since losing to CMR (4-0) in their final game before the holiday break. It was a game that revealed areas in which the Ponies need to grow if they want to be considered serious contenders come tournament time.
But, Havre has had two long weeks to rebound from the loss, and the Ponies are ready to go out and prove a point tonight.
“The girls are ready to get back out there and play a game,” HHS head coach Jason Wirt said. “Playing three games in three days is an obstacle we need to overcome, especially because that place (CMR Fieldhouse) is a tough place to play.”
The Ponies will turn around and host the Cut Bank Wolves on Friday night at the HHS gymnasium in a game that may turn out to be tougher than anticipated. The Ponies may not be completely healthy as the status of senior guard Keelie Solomon has come into question for this weekend. Her status will be a game-time decision.
“Cut Bank is a pretty solid team,” Wirt said. “I think we had an advantage in size but they have some good guards, and if Keelie can't play it will definitely change things a little bit.”
To finish out their three-game weekend, the Ponies will travel to Butte for a Central A showdown against Butte Central on Saturday.
The Ponies will be forced to play in another hostile environment as they look to improve their conference record to 3-1 and earn their third conference victory on the road.
“The game that we have to get is Saturday,” Wirt said. “I think that we match up well with Butte Central. They are kind of young and inexperienced, and they are also small like us, so they are a good matchup for us.”
The Ponies will be led by all-everything senior Stephanie Flatau, as she continues to consistently notch double-doubles with her ability to both score and rebound.
Havre, which is in the midst of a three-game losing skid, will be looking to regain some much-needed confidence.
“We just need to get some confidence,” Wirt said. “We have played some tough competition and I have just been trying to remind the girls (about) the quality of our opponents.
“We are going to try some new things this weekend, things that we haven't shown yet and teams have yet to see,” he added. “It will be a good weekend for us to see how we play against some tough teams and hopefully we can take care of business.”
The Havre girls will visit CMR tonight at 7:30. They will host Cut Bank on Friday night, also at 7:30 p.m. Saturday's game in Butte will get under way at 5 p.m.