Daniel Horton Havre Daily News email@example.com
Both the Havre High boys and girls basketball teams have had their ups and downs this season, and tonight both Blue Pony squads will be tested by talented Class AA programs. The fifth-ranked Class A HHS girls(8-3) will host the No. 4 ranked AA CMR Rustlers at the Havre High gymnasium at 7, while the Pony boys (5-6) will travel to Great Falls to face the topranked Rustlers at 7:30. In their last meeting, the Lady Rustlers defeated the Ponies 58-36 in Great Falls, and put an end to their four game winning streak. “CMR outplayed us.” Havre High girls head coach Dustin Kraske said. “Now we have an opportunity to play them again and do a better job. I think it will be a great game.” And while merely being on their home court will have its advantages, this time around the Ponies are looking to use this nonconference game as another opportunity to work out the kinks and to better. The first time around, the Ponies struggled on offense. They were taking good, open shots, but they only shot 28 percent from the field in the first half. They also struggled to get things going while committing 23 turnovers over the course of the game. The Rustlers effectively run a half-court press combined with a zone defense that takes a lot of teams out of their comfort zone. “We didn’t play offensively aggressive enough against their half court defense.” Kraske said. “We need to work on and continue to develop the idea of we are the aggressive team and we’re going to take what they give us and do things well.” And defensively, the Ponies were caught off guard throughout the night by the Rustlers' speed and physical play at the basket, which led to easy layups and transition points. The Ponies have only played two games since falling to the Rustlers, but they have continued to improve. And they are aware of Rustler players like Lindsey Brendgord, but are putting their focus onto themselves in an effort to keep improving. “The whole design of these games or the approach that we take is to step on the floor and to get better every time. These are the games to do it in and they are the games to make mistakes and the games to handle them,” Kraske said. The Blue Pony boys also have their work cut for them. Just two short weeks ago the Rustlers defeated the Ponies 67-38 in the Havre High gymnasium. Now they face an undefeated Rustler team on the road. But just as the Pony girls are doing, the boys are looking at tonight’s matchup as another good opportunity to work out the wrinkles in time for the return of conference play. “They (Rustlers) are a very good team.” Havre High boys head coach Andy Smith said. “And when you play a team like CMR they force you to play well, which forces you to get better.” And the main area for the Ponies to focus on is their struggling offense.. In their loss to the Rustlers, the Ponies found ways to get open and to get good looks, but their shot just wasn’t falling. On the night, they were forced to take more shots from the outside than they would have liked, and only shot 2-of-17 from behind the 3-point line. When the Ponies can get good consistency, both down low and from outside they have proven to be a dangerous team. But in recent games, the Ponies production down low has been evolving nicely while their production from outside has gone up and down. “We have the ability to knock down shots.” Smith said. “ But it just seems like we are having a hard time getting shots to fall. Sometimes all it takes is a few easy baskets to get your confidence up and we need to come out and find ways to get those.” For both the Pony boys and girls, competing hard and continuing to improve is the most important thing tonight. Regardless of the final scores, if the Ponies can execute their game plans and continue to move in the right direction tonight will be labeled a success not matter the outcome. Tonight the HHS girls host the No. 4 CMR Rustlers at the Havre High gymnasium at 7. And the HHS boys are in Great Falls to face the No. 1 Rustlers at 7:30 p.m. at the CMR Fieldhouse.