Havre Daily News
Playing three games in three days is a difficult thing to do. After falling Thursday to the CMR Rustlers in the first game of a grueling three-game stretch, the Havre High girls basketball team showed mental toughness and a lot of resiliency to earn two straight wins to close out the weekend.
“To be honest, we are just glad that it is over with,” HHS head coach Jason Wirt said. “You could see it on the kids' faces that they were starting to wear down.”
Friday night, the Ponies welcomed Cut Bank for a nonconference matchup at the HHS gymnasium. The Ponies overcame a sluggish start to earn a 58-39 win.
Early on in the game, it looked as though the Ponies were not all there: Almost five minutes went by before they scored their first basket. But the Ponies would find their groove as they took a 12-8 lead at the end of the first stanza.
In the second quarter, they scored 15 straight points, sparked by nine straight points by senior Alexa Lipp, to give themselves a comfortable 18-point lead and essentially put the game away.
“They came out and hit us hard early and we responded well to that,” Wirt said. “It was the first time all year that we hit them back after they came out and hit us, and that is a good sign.”
In the second half, the Ponies used an aggressive defense to keep Cut Bank from having any chance of getting back into the contest. The Wolves never got within 15 points the rest of the way.
The Ponies were led by Lipp and Keelie Solomon, each with 11 points. Nine of Lipp's 11 points came on 3-pointers. Tricia Samson also had a big night, pouring on eight points and a relentless defense and hustle to give the Ponies a much needed jolt off the bench. Fellow sophomore Katie Mariani scored eight points.
“Trish played great tonight. She was a huge spark for us tonight off the bench,” Wirt said. “Alexa shot the ball very well, and Lena Suek played some great defense for us.”
The win snapped a four-game losing streak for Havre High.
“It was just great for us to finally get a win,” Wirt said. “We finally got off the slide.”
On Saturday, the Ponies traveled to Butte to take on the Butte Central Maroons in an important Central A conference clash.
On this particular evening in Butte, the Ponies were just too much for the young Maroons. The Ponies took care of business 68-49 to improve to 3-1 in conference play.
The Ponies jumped ahead early, taking a 24-12 lead at the end of the first quarter as they were determined not to let the Maroons have a chance to get into the game.
The Ponies then built upon their lead in the second quarter, using continued solid play and a combination of sharp shooting, pressure defense and a low number of turnovers to suffocate the Maroons and take a dominating 43-20 halftime lead.
“We came out and played really well in the first half, which is really nice to see on the road,” Wirt said. “We shot the ball well in the first half and we were able to pressure them defensively with some looks they haven't seen. And we took really good care of the ball. We had only three turnovers the entire first half. So, the execution was really good.”
In the second half, either fatigue or trying to play with a big lead seemed to catch up with Ponies, and they were not quite as sharp as they'd been in the first half of play. But Butte Central did not have the firepower to make a serious run at them, and the Ponies rolled to a convincing win.
“They are just really young and inexperienced, but their kids played extremely hard from beginning to end. There was no quit in them,” Wirt said of Butte Central. “Because of their inexperience, we were able to pressure them early and force them to shoot quick shots. And then we were able to get out on transition and get some easy baskets.
“It seemed like we might come out and kind of take them lightly, but we executed really well and took care of them early.” he added.
Solomon and Lipp led the way with 13 points each. They were the only Ponies to score in double figures on a night of balanced scoring, with 10 different Ponies getting a least two points.
Sophomore Steph Stremcha notched 10 rebounds to go along with five points in a solid outing off the bench, and Lena Suek pitched in eight points in the winning effort.
Kelsey Estabrook, the only player in double figures for Butte Central, led the Maroons with 12 points. Brooke Pokorny added nine points on the night in a losing effort.
“It was good for us to go out and get another big win on the road,” Wirt said. “And we are glad to get that (three games in three days) over with.”
Havre will travel to Lewistown on Friday night.
Havre 58, Cut Bank 39
Cut Bank 8 6 11 14 - 39
Havre 12 19 17 10 - 58
Cut Bank - Gage 6, Johnson 2, Murphy 4, Stanchfield 10, C. Sheble 7, S. Sheble 8, Keopke 2. Totals: 15 9-18.
Havre - Tricia Samson 8, Steph Flatau 9, Hope Hedges 2, Kelsey Evans 3, Katie Mariani 8, Alexa Lipp 11, Keelie Solomon 11, Sarah Blessum 2, Christina Armstrong 1, Lena Suek 3. Totals 22 8-19.
Fouls - Cut Bank 22, Havre 18. Fouled out - none. Three-pointers - Lipp 3, Mariani, Solomon.
Havre 68 Butte Central 49
Havre 24 19 9 16 - 68
Butte Central 12 8 18 11 - 49
Havre - Steph Flatau 6, Kelsey Evans 5, Alexa Lipp 13, Keelie Solomon 13, Lena Suek 8, Steph Stremcha 5, Tricia Samson 7, Katie Mariani 7, Hope Hedges 2, Erika Briese 2. Totals 25 12-18 68.
Butte Central - Kelcie Thatcher 8, Kiley Prendergast 6, Brooke Pokorny 9, Alli Kling 4, Kelsey Estabrook 12, Kelli O'Leary 5, Mairissa Peoples 5. Totals 18 10-15 49.
3-point goals -Lipp 3, Solomon, Suek, Mariania, Pokorny, Estabrook, Peoples. Fouled out - none. Total fouls - Havre 18, Butte Central 17.