Chris Peterson Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
Everything went according to plan this weekend for the Havre High girls basketball team as the Ponies got downright defensive in blowout wins over Browning on Friday night and Cut Bank on Saturday night. Havre started the weekend with a Central A conference contest with the Browning Indians on Friday night at the Havre High gymnasium. The Ponies were abnormally sluggish throughout much of the first half, and at halftime, it was the upset-minded Indians who held a 20- 18 lead. “We just played kind of tired in the first half,” HHS head coach Dustin Kraske said. “I don’t know what the reason for that was, but we were really sluggish.” However, the difference between the Ponies in the first half and the second half was similar to the differences of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. HHS exploded out of the gates in the third quarter. The Ponies reeled of a 12-0 run led in large part by Lena Suek, who scored three baskets during the stretch. But the Ponies still weren’t finished. Two free throws by Tricia Samson midway through the period capped off a 20-2 run that gave HHS a commanding 38-22 lead. “The biggest change from the first half to the second half was our defense,” Suek said. “We started working a lot harder on defense, and I think that was the key for us. It was nice to see us come back after the way we played in the first half and respond the way that we did.” The Ponies kept the heat on Browning in the fourth quarter as Sarah Blessum hit back-to-back 3- pointers early in the period to extend the lead to 45-27, the biggest of the night for the Ponies. Browning never recovered from that point on and Havre won easily, 54-37. Junior Katie Mariani played well in the win for the Ponies as she put up a game-high 16 points. Blessum came in off the bench and buried three treys to give her a total of 11 points in the win. Tahni Edmo was the only Browning player to reach double figures on the evening, racking up 12 points. On Saturday night, the Ponies took care of business against nonconference foe Cut Bank, rolling to victory by the score of 57-26 to run their winning streak to six games. Havre jumped out to a 14-4 lead at the end of the first quarter. By halftime, the lead was extended to 30-16, giving the Ponies complete control of the contest. The domination continued in the second half as the Ponies outscored the Wolves 27-10 in the final 16 minutes on their way to the 31-point win. “I think that we played pretty well,” Kraske said. “We held them to just 26 points on defense, so that is a good thing. We also got a chance to play a little zone defense in the second half, so we got some good practice with that.” Mariani had another solid performance, scoring 19 points with eight of them coming at the freethrow line, and nine more coming from the 3-point line. Blessum had a quality game off the bench for the second straight night. She drilled three shots from beyond the arc and poured in 13 points. “Katie has been playing extremely well lately,” Kraske said. “Sarah has found her role on this team now. She is shooting the ball really well right now, and she just gives us another scorer out on the floor that teams have to worry about defending.” The two wins pushed the Ponies overall record to 7-2. Havre High has a 4-1 record in the Central A conference. The Ponies have been winning in large part because of their dominating defense. After holding Browning and Cut Bank to a combined 63 points in two games, they are now giving up just 39 points a game so far this season. “I think that the kids have really bought into our philosophy on defense,” Kraske said. “I think they are buying into it not just because it is my philosophy, but it is what matches their skill set. The exciting thing about it is that we can still get better and we will get better on defense as the season goes on.” Havre will take the floor again on Tuesday night at the HHS Gymnasium against the Malta Mettes.