A makeup game with Malta ended the Havre Blue Ponies winter break a few days earlier then planned, but now heading into the weekend the HHS boys have two conference opponents lined up.
Tonight the Central A Ponies (1-3, 1-1) will host the Lewistown Golden Eagles (1-2, 0-0) at the Havre High gymnasium at 7. And on Saturday, the Ponies will return to the road where they will face the Butte Central Maroons (3-2, 1-0) in Butte.
Tonight’s matchup against the Eagles will be the Ponies first home game of the season.
“I think the kids are excited to finally get to play a home game in front of friends and family,” Havre High head coach Andy Smith said. “We feel like we have had a really tough stretch these first four games, not only being on the road, but also playing really tough teams.”
In the Ponies' first four games of the season, they have faced off against Belgrade, Livingston, CMR and Malta on the road. The Ponies lone win has come against Livingston.
“I feel like we have really been improving each week,” Smith said. “You can really see the improvements. I don’t think our 1-3 record really shows the potential this team has, we have the potential to be a really good team.”
The Eagles prove to be a tough opponent year in and year out, and facing them in their home debut should be a solid test for HHS.
Lewistown has a very solid core of guards who can shoot very well from the perimeter. Jordan Vinger leads the Eagle offense with over 11 points per game, and is shooting over 20 percent from behind the three-point arc. The Ponies know they have to contest every shot, and not give up anything easy from the outside.
Travis Gilskey also averages 10 points per game for the Eagles and can be a definite offensive threat.
Butte Central is also a very productive offensive team.
The Maroons are very disciplined, and Smith recognizes the fact that they rarely hurt themselves with mistakes or turnovers. The Maroons are very patient and work for the open shot.
Seniors Andy Ritter, Jonathon Richards and Aschan Richards are all three-year starters, and will gain much of the Ponies' attention on Saturday.
Ritter averages over 16 points per game, while both 6-8 Aschan Richards and 6-5 Jonathon Richards combine for another 17.1 points per game.
Overall, the Ponies game plan is basically the same heading into both games.
On Defense, HHS really wants to set the tone with pressure. The Blue Ponies want to constantly disrupt passes by getting in the lanes, as well as force turnovers that will hopefully lead to transition buckets. Aggressive defense will be key to their success this season.
And on offense, the Ponies are still looking for even production.
Logan Connor has been averaging over 20 points per game, while Anfernee Standing Rock has averaged over 18 points per game. They are doing what Smith had hoped, but the Ponies need production from the remaining starters and bench players.
“The rest of our kids have been averaging just around 10 points per game,” Smith said. “We have to get some contribution out of some other kids.”
Brandon Smith has shooting capabilities from the guard position and his scoring increase would help the Ponies immensely. And while Drew Kafka has really come on strong as the Ponies' post player, coach Smith hopes for that to carry over into this weekend as well as the rest of the season.
If the Ponies can play to their capabilities, Smith likes his chances in both games this weekend. HHS has been steadily been improving, and if the supporting cast can step up and build around Connor and Standing Rock’s early success, the Ponies should be competitors all season long.
“I feel good about both games,” Smith said. “I see progress with every game, and though we are playing two good conference teams, I think we have a pretty nice team too. I think we will be right in there and that both games will be good games.”
Tonight the Ponies will host the Eagles at the Havre High gymnasium at 7 p.m. And on Saturday, the Ponies will return to the road where they will face the Maroons in Butte.