George Ferguson Havre Daily News sports editor firstname.lastname@example.org GREAT FALLS
The Havre High boys basketball teams' hope of reviving what has been a difficult season took a hit in the opening round of the Central A Divisional tournament. On Thursday at the CMR Fieldhouse in Great Falls, the Blue Ponies fell victim to a poor shooting performance in a 51-45 loss to the Belgrade Panthers. The loss dropped Havre into a Saturday morning loser-out game where it will face either Browning or Lewistown. "I think right now, the kids are disappointed because they feel like they are a lot better than we showed today," HHS head coach Andy Smith said. "We played hard, and defensively, I thought we did a good job. But the bottom line is, we just didn't step up and make enough shots and that's something that we really needed in this tournament." In fact, the Ponies shot just 28 percent from the field and made only two 3-pointers in Thursday's loss. Havre's worst stretch came in the third period when Belgrade outscored the Ponies 17-5. At the start of the quarter, the game was tied at 22-22, but after the Panther's run, HHS trailed 39-27. In the fourth quarter, the Ponies tried to mount a comeback even though they had to do it without senior center Grayson Winsor, who fouled out early in the period. Still, HHS put together an 11-3 run, capped off by a steal and score and a 3-pointer by Jason Mudrow. By the time the flurry was over, the Ponies trailed 45-41 with just three minutes left in the game. But from there, HHS went cold again, and the Panthers wrapped up the win at the free-throw-line. "We knew going in that it was a matter of kids stepping up and making shots," Smith said. "And today, we really struggled from the field. Our defense kept us in the game, but we needed to step up and make more shots, and we just didn't do that." HHS and Belgrade played to a virtual standstill in the first half. The Panthers jumped out to a 7-0 lead, but only led 9-6 at the end of a low-scoring first quarter. Both teams picked up the pace in the second period, as Havre outscored the Panthers 16-13 behind key a 3-pointer from Mudrow, and some strong inside play from Kaden Keto. Keto had a strong all-around game for HHS, scoring 13 points and grabbing a game-high nine rebounds. Mudrow came off the bench to score 12 points, including HHS's only two three's of the game. Reserve Tucker Parman was another bright spot for Havre. The junior scored eight points and grabbed six boards. Meanwhile, Belgrade got a gamehigh 19 points from Bobby Hirsch, including three trey's. Jake Halgren added nine points and six rebounds. The Panthers (6-12) will now play in today's semifinal against top-seeded Butte Central. Tip off for that game is 1 p.m. at the CMR Fieldhouse. On the flip side, HHS (5-14) will have to wait until Saturday to try and extend its season. The Ponies will await the loser of tonight's semifinal between the Eagles and Indians. HHS's loser-out game will be played at 11 a.m. on Saturday. "We just have to regroup now," Smith said. "The great thing about this tournament is we get to play again. We live to fight another day." The 2008 Central A boy's tournament runs through Saturday at the CMR Fieldhouse in Great Falls.