Daniel Horton Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
The Havre High girls basketball team entered the weekends play as the No. 2 team in the Central A, but after two outstanding performances the Blue Ponies walked away in a two-way tie for first. On Friday the Ponies defeated the Belgrade panthers, the Central A’s top team, 50-43, and on Saturday the Ponies defeated the Livingston Rangers, the Central A’s third-place team, 48-37, both at the HHS gymnasium. Since the Rangers and Panthers went 1-1 this weekend in conference play and the Ponies went 2-0, the Ponies and Panthers are now tied for first place with 6-1 conference records. “Belgrade has a real nice team.” Havre High head coach Dustin Kraske said. “They play athletic and get up and guard you. They play awful hard and try to wear you down a little bit. It was a great game and a great win for us. I was very pleased.” In the first quarter of Friday night's game, the Ponies received good play on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor. Sarah Blessum led the quarters' scoring with five points, and helped boost the Ponies to a 14-7 lead. And the defensive stand by the Ponies held the Panthers to only two points in the last five minutes of the quarter. And five more points by Blessum in the second quarter, including her second 3-pointer, helped maintain the Ponies' 29-23 lead going into the lockerroom at halftime. HHS was able to stretch their lead to 10 in the third quarter, but the Panthers chipped away at it with their constant full-court-press. The Panthers forced a Pony turnover at the end of the quarter, which led to a Nycole Devers bucket at the buzzer to bring the Panthers within five. The Ponies were holding onto a 41-36 lead heading into the fourth quarter, and the Panthers kept the pressure on. With six minutes left in the game the Panthers gave the Blue Ponies a scare by cutting the lead to one. But the Ponies quickly regained their composure and shook off the Panthers pressure, going onto win 50-43. HHS had some clutch shots down the stretch, but the Ponies did cut things close with some missed freethrows, shooting 53 percent from the line on the night. But overall the Ponies had a very balanced offense, inside and out. They showed a lot of patience, and did a nice job of spreading the floor and moving the ball around to find the open shot. “It was kind of a complete game for us in that regard.” Kraske said. “Every game, that needs to be our focus, to get good inside and perimeter play and get good production from both. It was a nice balance.” Blessum led with 13 points and Cassi Darrah had 12. Hayley Donovan did her part with nine, while Hope Hedges and Cali Freier both pitched in with six each. “It put us in a good position for the rest of the season and for divisionals.” Darrah said. “Belgrade was a very important game, and we had to win. We stepped up, we knew what we had to do from the beginning of the season when we played them.” And the Ponies followed up one big conference win with another. On Saturday the Ponies were able to come out and get a 48-37 victory over the Rangers to move them into a tie for first place with the Panthers. Entering the tough matchup the Ponies knew they had to watch out for the Ranger’s McKenzie Scofield and Honey Williams. And overall Blessum and Freier did a nice job guarding Scofield, and Hedges did a good job on Williams. Scofield did lead the Rangers with 13 points, but HHS held a big enough lead throughout the game that she didn’t have an impact. Saturday's play was a little sloppy by both teams, but even with having quite a few turnovers the Ponies were able to take a 14-8 lead heading into the second quarter, and a 24-28 lead at the half. “I know both teams were tired.” Kraske said. “It was a little more sloppy than what it should have been.” Darrah scored 11 and Donovan scored 6 first-half points to put the Ponies lead at 11, but in the last five minutes of the half the Rangers went on a 5-0 run to cut the lead to six. A lot of the Rangers points were coming from second chance opportunities, but after the half the Ponies defense stepped up and began to crash the boards more effectively. The Ponies were controlling the tempo of the game, and finding ways to get to the basket. In the second half the Ponies outscored the Rangers 24-19 to walk away with an 11-point win. Darrah led the Ponies with 18 points off eight buckets, including two from three, and Donovan added 11. Karly Evans had nine, with seven of them coming in the fourth quarter when she went 7-of-10 on free-throws. “It was an absolute great weekend for us.” Kraske said. “We got two wins to put ourselves tied for first and that’s all you can really expect. We’re real pleased at where we are at right now.” On Thursday the Ponies host the CMR Rustlers at the Havre High gymnasium at 7 p.m. On Saturday they are on the road to face the Great Falls High School Bison at 4:30 p.m.