Chris Peterson Havre Daily News email@example.com
After an impressive win to start the season, the Havre High boys basketball team will find out a lot more about itself, following a critical three-game stretch this weekend. The Blue Ponies cruised to a 57-38 road win over Malta last Friday, but the first real test comes tonight when they host Class B power Cut Bank. The Wolves won the Class B state championship just two years ago and have won their last four games against Havre. “I think they have some good height, they have some really big kids. I would say that they are pretty athletic,” HHS head coach Andy Smith said. “If you watch them run their offense, they are very patient and they get themselves a lot of high percentage shots.” The Wolves have a talented group of players back for this season led by Jeremy Whelchel and Brian Brauhn. Other key contributors for Cut Bank are Orin Johnson, Steven Paulson and Jon Coryell. The Ponies should be able to match the Wolves talent-wise, especially with the return of senior forward Jason Mudrow to the lineup. Mudrow will join Tony Filler, who scored 24 points in the win over Malta, and Michael Hickman to form a talented trio on the perimeter. Havre should also get solid production from their top three big men, Grayson Winsor, Kyle Finneman and Kaden Keto. But HHS did turn the ball over 18 times in the win over Malta and must reduce that number dramatically, to have a chance to knock off Cut Bank. “I am hoping that with the chance to play at home in front of their friends and family, the kids will step. The big thing for us is to take care of the ball,” Smith said. “You know that they are going to be patient and execute in the half-court offense. That’s how you win state championships by playing good disciplined basketball. When they get the ball they make every possession count. They don’t make a lot of mistakes and we need to make sure that we do the same thing.” After their nonconference game against Cut Bank, the Ponies will hit the road for a pair of key conference road games. On Friday night, the Ponies will travel to Livingston, followed by a trip to Belgrade on Saturday afternoon. “I know that it seems like a lot playing three games in three days, but I really think that we need that,” Smith explained. “We need to play some back-to-back games, because we can get some different looks and see how we stack up against some of the other teams in our conference. I think we are fairly deep and get we will get a chance to get some other kids some experience.” HHS dominated both games against Livingston last season, easily earning the season sweep. The Rangers opened the season with a pair of losses to Hardin and Whitehall by the scores of 71-61 and 58- 49, respectively. The Rangers will be led into action by stellar guard Rex Allen. Allen has averaged 12 points per game so far this season, as well as five rebounds, four steals and four assists. Other key players for Livingston include Casey Bernsten, who is averaging 11 points a game and Keenan Brame, who is scoring 12 points a game. On Saturday, the Ponies will pay a visit to conference rival Belgrade. The two teams split the season series last year and both are expected to be contenders in the conference this season. The Panthers have a deep team that is led by Mike Haderlie, Jimmy Hook, Bobby Hirsch and Jake Halgren. “I think that the two road games will be a good test for us,” Smith said. “Belgrade is a pretty good basketball team and Livingston isn’t a bad team either. The biggest thing is that it will give us a chance to see where we are right now.” Havre and Cut Bank will tip off tonight inside the HHS gymnasium at 7. On Friday night in Livingston, the Ponies are Rangers are set to start at 5:30 p. m. Then on Saturday Havre and Belgrade will get under way in Belgrade at 3:30 p.m.