Blue Ponies get past Runnin’ Rangers, face Butte Central in semifinals tonight at 7
Chris Peterson Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
It wasn’t pretty, but in the end it didn’t have to be. The Havre High boys basketball team found a way to sneak past Livingston in the first round of the Central A Divisional tournament Thursday night in Butte by the score of 52-43. And HHS beat the Rangers despite struggling to take care of the basketball and amassing 23 turnovers in a lessthan- stellar performance. “We survived and advanced,” HHS head coach John Barnhorst said. “Our lack of tournament experience definitely showed tonight. We just got going too fast early in the game and we made a lot of mistakes.” After a sluggish start to the game, the Ponies fell behind early to Livingston, trailing 15-11 at the end of the first quarter. But HHS began to turn things around in the second quarter, outscoring the Rangers 16-8 to regain the lead and take a 27-23 advantage into the second half of play. “We had a stretch there in the first half where it seemed like we turned it over on almost every single possession,” Barnhorst said. “We were just lucky that we shot the ball well tonight.” By the end of the third quarter, the Ponies had built a comfortable 41-33 lead and never allowed the Rangers to seriously threaten in the fourth period. Mike Sharp spearheaded the Ponies to victory with a clutch performance that included a game-high 21 points on 9- of-10 shooting from the field to go along with nine rebounds. “Mike played really well tonight,” Barnhorst said. “We knew that we had a bit of an advantage with our size inside and we were able to use it. I thought we did a good job of getting the ball inside to Mike and he did a great job of finishing. “He has really picked up his play late in the season,” he added. “Hopefully he can continue to play well. He has been playing with a lot of confidence and if we can get that kind of production out of him, it would be a real big boost for us.” Chris Brandt also had a stellar night for the Ponies, nailing three shots from beyond the arc on his way to a total of 17 points. “You need your seniors to step up in games like this,” Barnhorst explained. “And our seniors really stepped up big and play very well.” Rex Allen connected on two treys which led to a team-high 16 points in a losing effort for the Rangers. Keenan Brame added eight points for Livingston. After their victory over Livingston, the Ponies will advance into the semifinals where they will go head-to-head with second-seeded Butte Central. The two teams split during the regular season with HHS winning the last game back on Feb. 2 in Havre by the score of 53-50. Havre and Butte Central have a bit of a history in the postseason play, as the Maroons defeated the Ponies in the Central A championship game as well as in a loser-out game in the class A state tournament last year. “We have played them a lot over the last couple of years,” Barnhorst said. “They beat us a couple times last year, so hopefully we can come back and knock them off this time.” For Havre to have a chance to upset the Maroons, it will need to contain Central A leading scorer Matt Ritter, who averages 18.1 points per game. Other key players for Butte Central are Matt Boyle and Tanner Neumann, who each average over nine points a game. “They rely a lot on the 3-point shot,” Barnhorst said. “So if they are a little off and we do a better job of taking care of the basketball, I think that we are going to have a good chance against them.” HHS and Butte Central will tip off at 7 inside the Butte Civic Center tonight. Belgrade defeated Lewistown 59-50, setting up the other semifinal between the Panthers and top-seeded Browning, today at 1.