It’s tournament time once again, and the Central A boys divisional basketball tournament should be a close one. Today through Saturday the Central A tournament will take place in Great Falls at the CMR Fieldhouse. The Blue Ponies will open up their tournament against No. 5 Lewistown (2-8, 3-15) today at 2:30 p.m. Joining the No. 4 Blue Ponies (4-6, 8-10) will be the No. 1 Browning Indians (8-2,14-4), No. 2 Butte Central Maroons (8-2, 12-6), No. 3 Belgrade Panthers (7-3, 13-5) and the Livingston Park Rangers (1-9, 5-13). And the Ponies and the HHS coaching staff don’t think there is a clear favorite. With records not taken into consideration, the field is fairly even. “We are going to have to compete the whole weekend,” Havre High head coach Andy Smith said. “Its kind of cliché, but everybody starts over, the records are out the window and whoever shows up and plays is going to win." The only sure thing for the Ponies this weekend will be their first-round matchup against the Eagles. If the Ponies manage a win against the Eagles, they will move on to face the Indians Friday at 1 p.m. If the Ponies lose, they will await an opponent Saturday morning at 11. During the regular season the Ponies and Eagles have met two different times. On the road the Ponies earned a 43-40 win, and at home they won by a larger margin, taking care of the Eagles 74-58 on senior night. “Obviously it’s a game that we can win,” Smith said. “But we know that we have to go down and play well." Defensively the Ponies are first and foremost set on stopping the Eagles 3-point threat. Nick Kozub and Jorden Vinger lead the Eagles in scoring, and have noteworthy 3-point abilities. On the season, Kozub is 34 percent from behind the arc and averages 18.5 points per game. Vinger was 27 percent from behind the arc, and 11.1 points per game. In their last game against the Ponies, Vinger and Kozub combined for six treys. HHS will have to keep Kozub and Vinger at bay. And the Ponies will have to make sure they do so while also shutting down the perimeter. “They (Eagles) are a dangerous team because they have kids that can shoot well from the perimeter,” Smith said. “They are kind of a scary team, and we just have to make sure we are out there contesting every shot.” On the offensive side of the ball the Ponies are looking to do a few different things. They have done a good job of getting to the free-throw-line lately and will need to do that again this week. As a team the Ponies have shot 66 percent from the line this season. Also, the Ponies are looking to take full advantage of their size. The Eagles don’t have the personnel to match up with Thane Gray down low and his participation will be key, averaging over 12 points and just under 10 rebounds per game. “We have to make sure we play inside out,” Smith said. “We have to take advantage and make sure we get Thane involved.” C.J. Evans will look to continue his hot hand as of late, but averaging 16.8 points per game all eyes will be on him. That’s where Evans’ play-making ability will come into play. Evans totaled 79 assists this season, 4.4 per game. And with his vision on the floor, Smith would like to see him get some other shooters involved. “C.J. is a guy that is going to be a marked man,” Smith said. “He has really been on a role offensively, and being a marked man, they are looking to slow him down. Both Brandon (Smith) and Logan (Connor) have shot well this year and we would like to get them involved, too.” Brandon Smith averages just over five points per game, Connor is a 33 percent 3-point shooter and averages 9.3 points per game. But what will really help the Ponies is Connor looking to score inside the arc as he led the Central A in field goal shooting percentage at 64 percent. Anfernee Standing Rock has also stepped up big in the second half of the season, giving the Ponies another offensive weapon. HHS is completely focused on their first round game against the Eagles, but looking ahead, the Ponies will most likely advance to face the Indians Friday. But the Indians won't be an easy task. They have beaten the Ponies twice this season, first in Browning 82-76 and then in Havre 74-71 in the Ponies last game of the season. “We just have to play smart and take care of the ball,” Smith said. “We know if we play well they (Browning) are beatable. We played them close both times, and we feel like we are narrowing the gap. Maybe if we get another chance it’s our time, I don’t know. We just have to win game one to give ourselves an opportunity.” The other boys first-round game tonight pits Belgrade and Livingston squaring off at 8:30. The winner will meet secondseeded Butte Central Friday night. Today at the CMR field house, the Ponies will face the Eagles at 2:30 p.m. The Central A boys tournament runs through Saturday night in Great Falls.
Pony boys face Lewistown today
Published: Thursday, February 25th, 2010
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