Chris Peterson Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
After a long season of struggling to find victories, the Havre High boys basketball team will have a chance to redeem itself this weekend at the Central A divisional tournament. The Blue Ponies finished in the bottom half of the Central A standings this season, ending up in a tie for fourth place with Belgrade, which will be the Ponies’ first-round opponent. Havre will play Belgrade today at 2:30 in Great Falls at the CMR Fieldhouse, the site of both the Central A boy's and girl's tournaments this week. In the two regular season meeting between the teams, Belgrade managed to win both games. The Panthers squeaked out a pair of close victories, with a 65-59 win in Belgrade and a 54-50 victory in Havre. “We had a bit of a tough season,” HHS head coach Andy Smith said. “But I think that we have done some good things and hopefully we can play our best basketball now at the end of the year.” Despite losing to the Panthers twice in the regular season, HHS does match up fairly well. Havre will go into the game averaging just 47 points per game and will rely on junior guard Michael Hickman as well as senior forward Kyle Finnmeman for a large part of its offensive production. Hickman is leading the Ponies with over 12 points per game, while Finneman is averaging around 10 points and six rebounds. Meanwhile, the Ponies will have to deal with the balanced Belgrade offensive attack led by Jimmy Hook, who leads the Panthers in scoring with 12.2 points per game. The other key players for Belgrade are Jake Halgren, who averages 8. 8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, as well as Mike Haderlie who scores seven points a game and 6.7 rebounds a game. The winner of Havre-Belgrade will advance to semifinals, where they would face off against Central A conference regular season champion Butte Central Friday at 1 p.m. The Maroons (16-2) are the topranked team in the state and looking for their fourth straight appearance in the Class A state tournament. The Maroons are arguably the best offensive team in the conference with an average of 60 points a game. The stellar offense is led by the dynamic duo of Tanner Neumann and Matt Ritter. Neumann leads the team with 14.9 points per game and 6.6 rebounds per game, while Ritter isn’t far behind with a scoring average of 13.9 points per game. Other key players include Matt Bair and Zack Boyle. The other first-round today in Great Falls will feature third-seeded Lewistown (10-8) going head-to-head with sixth-seeded Livingston (4-14). The Eagles will bring a high-powered offense into the contest, which is led by the talented trio of Craig Nelson, Dylan Buehler and Derek Barttel. Nelson, who shoots 45 percent from beyond the arc, leads the Eagles in scoring with 15. 9 points per game. Buehler averages 14. 4 points per game along with 6.3 rebounds and Bartel scores 13.3 points a game to go with a team-high 6.7 boards a game. The Rangers, who are coming into the divisional tournament losers of 12 of their last 14 games, including two losses to Lewistown will be led by senior guard Rex Allen. Allen is the Rangers high scorer with 14.9 points per game. The Rangers will also count on Keenan Brame with 11.8 points per game and 6. 7 rebounds per game. The winner of Lewistown/Livingston game will face off against secondseeded Browning (14-4)) on Friday at 8:30 p.m. The Indians, who were the Class A state runner-up last season are in line for another deep postseason run. Browning has the top offensive player in the Central A in DJ Fish, who leads the conference in scoring with 16. 1 points per game. However, Andrew Spotted Wolf is not far behind, as he averages 15.5 points per game along with a team-high 7.1 points per game. Another key player is Jordan Long Time Sleeping. “Our conference is very difficult,” Smith said. “Butte Central and Browning are both great teams. They have some great players and they are two of the best teams in the state. “We just want to go out and play some good basketball,” he added. “Hopefully we can play our best basketball and win a couple of games so we can end the season in a positive fashion. The top two teams in this weekend's Central A tournament will advance to the Class A state tournament next week in Billings.