Chris Peterson Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s not often that the Havre High girls basketball team gets a chance to play spoiler, but that is exactly what happened after it ruined Malta’s perfect season. Havre had given Malta just about all it could handle for three quarters, but unfortunately the Ponies still found themselves facing a 35-30 deficit, entering the final stanza of Tuesday night's interclass game in Malta. However, that is exactly when the Ponies began to play their best basketball. Havre rallied late in the fourth quarter to take a 41-39 lead, but the score was tied up at 41-41, following a difficult jump shot by Malta senior Kylee Denham. Havre had time for one more shot and Hope Hedges made it count, draining a shot at the buzzer from about five feet to seal the dramatic 43-41 victory. “They had us on the ropes, they were up by seven points, but we just started making plays,” HHS head coach Dustin Kraske said. “We drew up a play and Hope was able to get to the basket.” Senior forward Steph Stremcha led the Ponies in scoring for the third consecutive game after notching 17 points, which led all scorers. The Ponies also received eight points from junior guard Hedges in the win, as well as seven points from senior guard Tricia Samson. “Steph has just been doing a great job,” Kraske explained. “We have been doing a great job of getting her the basketball and she has been able to come through for us.” The victory by Havre over the defending Class B state champions put an end to Malta’s 41-game winning streak, which has spanned the course of two seasons. The M-Ettes posted a 26-0 record on their way to a state championship last season and before Tuesday's loss to the Ponies, were looking for their second unbeaten season. The Ponies also ended a three-game losing skid to Malta and avenged a 42-39 loss to the M-Ettes in Havre back on Dec. 7. Havre came out strong to open the interclass showdown, but still trailed 13-12 at the end of the first quarter. Both teams scored eight points in the second quarter, and at halftime the Ponies were down by just a single point, 21-20. Yet, it was in the third quarter that Malta began to add to their lead. The M-Ettes outscored Havre 14-10 to take a 35-30 lead before the fourth quarter. “It was just a great team effort,” Kraske said. “We played great team defense, even the shot by Denham to tie the game was a very difficult shot.” Senior guard Laramie Schwenke and Denham each had 12 points in the heartbreaking defeat for Malta. A big key to the upset victory for the Ponies was their ability to get to the free-throw-line. The Ponies made a striking 21 trips to the foul line in the game, while the M-Ettes were only able to manage nine. Then, when the Ponies were able to get to the charity stripe, they converted, knocking down 15 of their 21 opportunities. The HHS defense also played a major role in the victory, as it held Malta to just six points in the fourth quarter and without a 3-point field goal. Following back-to-back losses at the hands of Great Falls High and CMR, the Ponies have responded with three straight victories. “I think we showed that we are winners,” Kraske said. “It was a great effort by everyone and I think we showed how much progress we have made as a team.” The Ponies, who are now 12-5 on the year, and they have already clinched the Central A regular season title. But they still have two games left on the schedule, beginning Friday night against Cut Bank. It will be senior night for Havre on Friday when they play host to Cut Bank at the HHS gymnasium.