Havre Daily News
After playing some of their best basketball of the season, the Havre High Blue Ponies will look to end the season on a high note as they travel to Browning tonight for a Central A clash with the Browning Indians.
The Ponies are on a two-game winning streak after blowing out both Malta and Lewistown last weekend. When they met in Havre in December, the Ponies wiped the floor with the Indians, 68-49. And since that point, things haven't gotten a whole lot better for Browning.
The Indians have lost 12 out of their last 14 games and are just 2-7 in conference play, compared with the Ponies' 7-2 conference record.
The Ponies must be careful not to overlook Browning tonight, because the Indians have a history of late-season upsets. They seem to be playing much better, Last weekedn they knocked off Lewistown and nearly beat Butte Central, losing only by four points.
The Ponies are led by Jeremy Giardina, who leads the conference in scoring at 18.2 points per game. The Ponies also have Jared Weigel, who is their second leading scorer and rebounder, with 15.5 points per game and 8.4 rebounds per game. Browning will counter with Jordan Running Wolf, who puts in 15.3 points per game, and D.J. Fish, who averages 12.2 points per game and 10 rebounds. Browning's tandem of Running Wolf and Fish are not quite as talented and diverse as Havre's trio of Giardina, Weigel and Mike Barton.
However, road trips to Browning are always challenging and this year should be no exception. Even though the Ponies don't really have anything to play for tonight, they want to have momentum when they head to divisionals, and there is only one thing that can give them that - a win.
The Ponies will take on the Indians at 7:30 p.m. in Browning.
The stakes will be high when the Havre High girls basketball team travels to Browning on Saturday night. Not only are both teams putting their long winning streaks on the line, but the game will also decide who walks away with the Central A regular-season title.
The Ponies, riding an 11-game winning streak, are 8-1 in conference play and 13-4 overall. Browning is 9-0 in conference and 17-0 overall, and the Indians are the No.2 team in Class A.
If Havre can defeat Browning, which will not be easy especially on the road, the Ponies could grab a share of the conference title. If they can beat the Indians by 12 or more points, they could claim the No. 1 spot in the conference and the top seed at the divisional tournament in Belgrade.
Browning defeated the Ponies 63-52 when they squared off earlier in the season in Havre. If the two teams finish the season tied at the top of the standings, point differential will be the tiebreaker.
The matchup could also be a preview of next weekend's divisional championship.
“They don't hand out prizes for winning regular-season games,” HHS head coach Jason Wirt said. “But it would be a good statement if we could get a win. It would show the rest of Class A that we are a good team and it would be a big confidence boost for us.”
If the Ponies are going to knock off the undefeated Indians, they are going to have slow down Browning's fearsome foursome, led by Tahni Edmo, who leads the Indians with 14.1 points per game. Edmo leads the team in scoring but Bobbi Woodworth, who averages 11.4 points per game, Jeanna Skunkcap, who averages 11.4 points per game, and Rikki Ollinger, who puts in 10.1 points per game, are all equally as dangerous.
“We have to try and keep them off the boards as best we can,” Wirt said. “They are going to get some rebounds because of their size, but we just can't let them have a bunch of second-chance opportunities.”
The Ponies will counter with four solid players of their own, led by Steph Flatau, who leads the team in points at 13.5 a game and rebounds with 12.9 a game. Alexa Lipp gives the Ponies a legitimate threat from the perimeter and she is the team's second leading scorer with 11.1 points a game.
Keelie Solomon and Kelsey Evans pitch in by doing a little bit of everything - scoring, rebounding and passing.
“The main thing for us is that we just want to go out there and play well,” Wirt said. “We just want to keep our confidence going and, of course, that is easier to do when you win. But we need to focus on playing well first, and everything else will take care of itself.
“They are going to be ready to play because they have a chance to finish off a special season by going undefeated,” he added. “We just want to go out there and get the respect that we have earned. We want to go down there and play well to show them that we can play at their level.”
The Ponies will take on the Indians at 5 p.m. Saturday in Browning.