Chris Peterson Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
After an unexpected slow start to the season, the Havre High girls basketball team picked up the pace considerably this weekend, with a pair of easy victories. The Blue Ponies won just two of their first five games to open the season after suffering some uncharacteristic struggles from the field. But on Friday night inside the HHS gymnasium, Havre put together arguably its most complete game of the season in a 59-48 victory over Central A rival Lewistown. HHS did get off to a bit of a slow start against the Eagles, but thanks to a strong effort on the defensive end of the floor, the Ponies held an 11-10 advantage at the end of the first quarter. By halftime the lead was pushed to 26-17. The Ponies did their best to pull away in the third stanza, but the Eagles managed to hang around and trimmed the deficit down to five points following a basket by Shandy Songer with 4:07 left in the period. The turning point came soon after, when the Ponies went on a 10-2 run thanks in large part to two 3-pointers by Katie Mariani to build a 40-27 advantage. The Eagles were within nine points by the end of the third quarter, but another trey by Mariani to open the final quarter proved to be the dagger. Mariani led the Ponies with a teamhigh 14 points coming off the bench. “It was great to see, (Katie) gave us a big spark off the bench,” HHS head coach Dustin Kraske. “I think what it did for her was give her confidence. She didn’t play as much as she usually plays, but she did a great job.” Hope Hedges also put together a solid outing for Havre, notching 13 points in the win. Steph Stremcha also pitched in with nine points, while Jeanna McCann had eight. “Jeanna McCann is coming along nicely. She shoots the ball and plays so well in practice and we are starting to see glimpses of that in games,” Kraske said. “I think Hope is starting to come out of her shell a little bit. She is starting to play a lot more aggressively on offense. Sarah Blessum also did a great job of getting wide open. She just does such a nice job of reading the defense. “Then you have (Hanna Wells) who doesn’t always do the things that get your name in the paper,” he added. “But she plays great defensively and does the little things that helps you win games.” Josie Sweeney was one of the few bright spots for the Eagles, as she finished with a game-high 18 points. After knocking off Lewistown, the Ponies traveled to Butte on Saturday to take on Butte Central. The Ponies played their most complete game of the season, dominanting on both ends of the floor on their way to a 53-30 win. Havre was so dominate defensively, that the Maroons were held to just six field goals in the contest. “We played great,” Kraske said. “It was a sight to see. We just played so well, the girls shot the ball well, defensively we were great, it was exactly what I wanted to see down there because last year we went down there and didn’t play very well, so we went down there and took care of business. We only gave up six baskets the whole game.” Stremcha led the Ponies with a team-high 11 points to go along with nine rebounds in the win. Hedges and Tricia Samson also pitched in with 10 points a piece. No one from Butte Central reached double figures in the game. Kelli O’Leary led the way for the Maroons with nine points. “What I like about our team now is that we are starting to play with more confidence,” Kraske said. “The other team might defend Katie or Tricia, but you are not going to guard all of them.” The Ponies are now in the midst of a three-game winning streak that has improved their record to 5-3 overall, as well as 3-1 in conference play. Havre will be in action again on Friday night when it plays host to the Browning Indians.