The Havre High girls basketball team has made a habit of making it to the state tournament, and with another season getting underway, the Blue Ponies will look for another appearance this year.
For three straight years the Central A Blue Ponies have made it to the state tournament and brought back a No. 4 finish. Last year they did it with a final record of 13-13.
Tonight in Malta, the Ponies will look to get another season started on a positive note when they face the hosting Class B Malta M-Ettes, the defending state champions.
“I enjoy playing Malta,” Havre High head coach Dustin Kraske said. “And I know the girls do too. Malta has been a top program in the Class B and this year there will be no exception to that. They are very fundamentally sound and a real top quality opponent that we get to play, and that makes us better. We look forward to playing Malta because their kids play hard and we will learn a lot about our team.”
After another state tournament run a year ago, the Ponies graduated three key players, in Cassi Darrah, Cali Freier and Hayley Donovan. All three players were dominant forces last year, and leave quite the hole to fill.
Jaclyn Evans, Christina Mack and Paighton Gillman return to the team this season, and house the most varsity experience. They will get the start tonight against the M-Ettes, while Kraske still contemplates the best players to surround them with. Other starting hopefuls include Kassala Holdsclaw, Peyton Filius, Brandy Lambourne, Sammy Evans, Ashlynn VanVoast and Lacey Waid.
“We have a few girls we are looking at to fill the other spots,” Kraske said. “We are just figuring out the best combination we can put out on the floor and get them to play together and play hard.
“We’re going to do our best to give our kids opportunities to play and put them in situations where they can be successful,” Kraske added. “We’re going to try some different mixes of kids and some different things to see how they can play with one another, but obviously it will come down to, the kids that will play the most will be the ones who play the best (tonight).”
HHS doesn’t have the deepest or most experienced squad this season, but the Ponies do have basketball talent. Jaclyn Evans showed last year that she can drive to the hoop as well as hit a 3-point shot. Mack also has some outside shooting ability, while Gillman will look to dominate down low, creating second chance opportunities with her ability to grab the loose ball.
The Ponies can expect a lot of pressure from the Malta defense, and they have to handle that if they want to be successful. Kraske is looking for them be poised and have patience while still play with some tempo.
“We have to play with sense of urgency,” Kraske said. “Yet still be in control of what’s going on. They kind of contradict, but I want the kids to play hard and be aggressive, but still have the ability to be patient when necessary.”
But as for now, the Ponies are really looking to play sound team defense against the M-Ettes. Their ability to play defense will set up the offense on the opposite end of the floor, and keep them in the game if the offense struggles.
“We can't afford to have four people playing hard and one person not,” Kraske said. “That can’t happen.”
Facing Malta tonight is just the first of a long line of tough games for the Ponies. They have a very tough conference schedule with 10 games, but also face a lot of non conference opponents like CMR, Conrad and Great Falls High, all of which that Kraske is looking forward to playing. Just like Malta will do tonight, playing the non conference schedule will only make the Ponies better.
Tonight at 6, the Ponies get their season underway in Malta against the Class B M-Ettes.