Havre Daily News
It's been a long and winding road for the Havre High boys basketball team this season.
But now, after many twists and turns, the Blue Ponies have finally made it to their final destination - the Class A State tournament in Bozeman.
After a long season that had plenty of trials and tribulations, the Ponies finally earned the state tournament berth that has been two years in the making.
The Ponies' joy might quickly subside, though, as their first-round opponent in the tournament is none other than the No.1 ranked Glendive Red Devils.
Havre and Glendive will square off at 2 p.m. on Thursday.
“They are a very good basketball team,” HHS head coach John Barnhorst said. “We are definitely going to have our hands full with them.”
One reason the Red Devils will be such a handful for Havre is their overwhelming size at nearly every position. Out of the Red Devils' top six players, five of them are at least 6-0, and they boast 6-10 Shane Germann.
“They are a very big team,” Barnhorst said. “And, their size is definitely a concern for us going into the game. We may have a real tough time matching up against some of their players because of the size differential.”
The Ponies do have some height of their own on the frontline in 6-8 center Mike Barton. But the problem is that Germann is not your regular high school center. He is a player who is comfortable playing out on the perimeter and he is an adequate 3-point shooter. That could pull Barton out from underneath the baskets, opening things up for other Devil players.
Glendive is 19-1 on the season, with its lone loss coming to Butte Central at the beginning of the season. The Red Devils are also making their third consecutive state tournament appearance and this time around, they are hoping to walk away with the title.
Besides Germann, the Red Devils have many other talented weapons such as Division I-A prospect Derek Selvig, as well as Brent Dion, Drew Milne and Jason Erickson.
“They have a lot of versatile players,” Barnhorst said. “They can do a lot of different things with the basketball and they have players that can hurt you in more than one way.”
However, it's not as though the Ponies are completely devoid of offensive weapons. In fact, it's the exact opposite.
Havre (14-7) has one of the better backcourt duos in the tournament with Jeremy Giardina and Jared Weigel. They are the top two scorers in the Central A conference. Barton can also provide the Ponies with a low-post threat that opens things up for the rest of the HHS offense.
“The main thing for us offensively is patience,” Barnhorst said. “They are going to come out and zone us, so we need to be patient because we can't afford to turn the ball over. And we need to take quality shots.”
The other team from the Central A conference in the Class A tourney is the Butte Central Maroons. Butte Central is fresh off its Central A title and will butt heads with the Sidney Eagles in a first-round game at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday.
The Maroons are 17-3 on the season, and, after falling in the state championship game a year ago, there is a feeling that Maroons are out to take care of some unfinished business.
First off, however, they will have to knock off Sidney, which will be easier said than done.
However, the Maroons do have all the firepower necessary to complete such a task with sharp shooters Shaugn McKeon and Matt Pokorny, as well as versatile bigman Alex Murphy.
While Sidney may not be quite as talented as the Maroons. the Eagles have the ability to beat them with Jerred VandeBossche and Jeff Stedman leading the way.
The opening game of the tournament will be played between Frenchtown (14-7) and Polson (15-6), with the winner moving on to play the winner of Havre/Glendive in the semifinals.
Frenchtown is coming into the tournament with a lot of momentum after winning the Southwestern A divisional title, its first title of any kind in Class A basketball. The Broncs are led by the solid play of Nathan and Brian Lebsock.
Polson, which finished second in the Northwestern A after a 53-52 loss to Columbia Falls in the divisional championship game, knows it can compete with the big boys at this tournament. The Pirates are led by James Langston and Colton Woods.
The final opening-round matchup will be between Columbia Falls and Corvallis at 8 p.m. Thursday.
The Wildcats are a legitimate title contender this year led by Guy Smith, Robbie Dakin and Kevin Boyer.
The Wildcats will take on a very good Corvallis team paced by Colin Fehr and Cameron Bowles.
“I think that Glendive, Columbia Falls and Butte Central are probably the teams to beat,” Barnhorst said. “We know that it is going to be tough and to beat a team like Glendive we are going to have to play mistake-free basketball.
“All we really want, though, is a chance,” he added. “So all we can do is go out there and play as hard as we can and just kind of see what happens. And hopefully we can get some things to go our way.”
The Class A state tournament will get under way Thursday afternoon and continue through Saturday night. Havre's game with Glendive will tip off at 2 p.m. Thursday and all the action will take place at the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse in Bozeman.
Class A boys
Montana State University-Bozeman
12:30 - Frenchtown (14-7) vs. Polson (15-6)
2 p.m. - Glendive (19-1) vs. Havre (14-7)
6:30 - Butte Central (17-3) vs. Sidney
8 p.m. - Columbia Falls (17-3) vs. Corvallis (15-5)