December is the time when basketball teams just want to put their best foot forward, and improvement is the primary focus.
And while the scoreboard might not show it, the Havre High girls basketball team took some important steps on Tuesday night. HHS made its home debut Tuesday night at the HHS gymnasium, and fell to Class AA powerhouse CMR, 62-21, but even in defeat, HHS head coach Dustin Kraske was encouraged.
“I was really pleased with our overall effort tonight,” Kraske said. “I thought we defended really well, and I know it might sound crazy because we gave up 62 points, but we talk about being better every game, and I think we were much better defensively tonight than we were in the two games we played this weekend.”
And Kraske could be right considering the quality of the opponent the Ponies were defending on Thursday night went way up from what they saw this weekend on the road.
The Rustlers have size at every position and loads of talent, even without star guard Haley Vining in the lineup. And they didn’t take the Ponies lightly. Instead, CMR came out and executed its game plan to perfection. On offense, the Rustlers jumped out to a 10-0 lead and defensively, they stymied the Ponies right away with a daunting full-court press.
“CMR is not a slouch team,” Kraske said. “Their pressure bothered us, especially at the beginning of the game, and they executed really well on offense. Again, I thought our defensive effort was really good, but they have us outsized at every position and they were very sharp at the beginning of the game.”
And size was definitely the difference as the Rustlers outrebounded HHS 34-19, and with taller players executing a full-court press, the Rustlers forced the Ponies into 19 turnovers, many coming in the first 16 minutes as CMR built a commanding 36-10 halftime edge.
The Ponies did get some looks in the second half. Christina Mack and Kassala Holsdclaw both knocked down shots in the third quarter, but CMR had too much firepower and in the final 16 minutes, the Rustlers outscored the Ponies 26-11.
Senior Paighton Gilman paced HHS with seven points , while Holdsclaw added four points and Mack had three. Sammy Evans came off the bench to lead Havre with four rebounds. The Rustlers got a game-high 19 points from Alex Lowry.
The loss dropped HHS to 1-2 on the young season and the Ponies won’t return to action until Jan. 7 when they travel to Lewistown.
“This was a good learning experience for us,” Kraske said. “And there are some things we will certainly have to do differently the next time we play them. But I was really pleased with how hard we played tonight and I thought we improved in some areas and that’s what we’re looking for right now.”
C.M. Russell 62, Havre 21
C.M. Russell 17 19 17 9 —62
Havre 7 3 5 6 —21
C.M. Russell — Tess Sandefur 1-1 1-4 3, Lexi Pyette 1-1 2-2 4, Cailyn Schroeder 1-2 0-0 2, Alison Sullivan 5-7 0-0 10, Jessie Hardin 1-3 0-1 2, Hannah Vining 2-4 2-2 6, Alex Lowry 7-11 5-8 19, Diondra Denton 4-4 0-2 8, Sara Wier 3-6 0-0 6, Allison Sexe 0-2 0-0 0, Ashlee Atchinson 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 26-44 10-19.
Havre — Brandy Lambourne 1-2 0-0 2, Jacklynn Evans 1-8 0-0 2, Kassla Holdsclaw 2-7 0-1 4, Sammy Evans 1-2 0-0 2, Peyton Filius 0-5 1-2 1, Chris Mack 3-11 1-2 7. Totals 9-38 3-7.
Total fouls — C.M. Russell 12, Havre 18. Fouled out — none. Three-point goals — CMR 0-3, Havre 0-10. Rebounds — CMR 34 (Lowry 6), Havre 19 (S. Evans 4).