The nonconference schedule is used to make teams better for when they face conference opponents. And with two more nonconference games scheduled for the Havre High girls basketball team, the Blue Ponies are in for a big test. Tonight the Central A Ponies (3-4, 3-8) are in Great Falls where they will face the Class AA CMR Rustlers at 7. And on Saturday the Ponies will return to the Havre High gymnasium where they will host the Class AA Great Falls High Bison at 5 p.m. “You learn from these games that don’t mean anything in your conference standings,” Havre High head coach Dustin Kraske said. “We play four, not too bad non-conference games and that gives us chance to work on some things, do some things different and improve for our conference schedule. All we’re looking for is to get better this weekend so we are better prepared next weekend. Those two games are critical.” Facing the Rustlers on the road is no easy task. And after seeing them earlier this season, the Ponies know exactly what they have to do. The Rustlers are a solid program from top to bottom. They shoot very well and do so from every area of the floor. They also play very well in transition and normally bring down a lot of rebounds. In their first meeting the Ponies lost 52-34, but played very well. They stuck with CMR through the first half and trailed by only three and the midway point. And if the Ponies want to stay with the Rustlers again, they will have to play 32 minutes like they did in the first half of their first meeting. HHS moved without the ball, and moved the ball successfully against the Rustlers defense. And against the good defense, the Ponies will be forced once again to find the open shots and find a way to get to the basket. “We are going to have to play physical down there,” Kraske said. “And we are gong down there looking to play as best as we can against a team that we know is very good and well coached.” Defensively, the Ponies need to stiffen up. The Rustlers can expose any holes in a team's strategy, and this time HHS knows it has to stop the Rustlers from exposing their high post and base line areas in their zone defense. “We are going to have to clean that up a bit,” Kraske said. “And not let that happen as frequently.” The Blue Ponies will return home on Saturday where they will face the Bison who beat them 51-49 on a last-secondshot in their first meeting. The Ponies may have lost, but again played very well. Offensively they were averaging just 30 points per game at the time, but broke out and put up 49. And to find success again, the Ponies need have to match the Bison’s physicality. The Bison's defense plays strong and tough. They play both a zone matchup defense as well as a man-to-man defense. But in either case, the Ponies have to match up and keep the physical level up. “We are going to have to handle their (Bison) physical defense better at our gym,” Kraske said. “Which I think we will. And we have to do a lot better job against their man defense. Last time the Ponies faired pretty well against the Bison’s zone, but struggled later in the contest when GFH switched to their man defense. Like always, Cassi Darrah and Hayley Donovan need to play well on the offensive side of the ball. Jaclyn Evans should also be a solid contributor if looks to be more of an aggressive scorer. Paighton Gilman should also have a very good two-game series. She has looked good in practice, but Kraske needs that to transfer in to game time scenarios. Gilman has also proven to play better against a more physical opponent. And luckily for her and the Ponies, the Rustlers and Bison play very physical on both sides of the ball. “We need her (Gilman) to go into every game with the mindset that she is going to be the dominant kid that we think she can be at the basket offensively and defensively,” Kraske said. But just as Kraske said, the Ponies are looking to just get better and more prepared for next weekends conference games. The Ponies have moved into the No. 3 spot in the Central A and can ensure that place with wins over Lewistown and Butte Central next weekend. Tonight the Ponies (3-4, 3-8) will face the Rustlers at 7 in Great Falls. And on Saturday the Ponies will return home where they will host the Bison at 5 p.m.
Blue Pony girls visit CMR tonight, host GFH Saturday
Published: Thursday, January 28th, 2010
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