The Class AA Great Falls Bison have two very tough basketball programs, and the Havre High boys and girls squads are going to have their hands full.
Tonight the Central A boys will take to the road to face the Bison, while also tonight, the Pony girls will host the Bison at the HHS gymnasium at 7 p.m. for two non-conference matchups.
When the Pony girls faced the Bison earlier this month in Great Falls, the Ponies fell 48-40.
And after playing the Bison so well the first time around, the Ponies are looking to do so again at home. In the eight-point loss, the Ponies didn’t play as well as they would have liked at the end of the game, missing shots and folding under the Bison’s defensive pressure.
Solid defense will be key for the Ponies. They have steadily improved all year long, and head coach Dustin Kraske would like to see that continue.
“I think the kids are getting more comfortable with the defense so I would like to see us play with a little confidence and little better effort,” Kraske said.
And offensively, HHS wants to better handle the Bison’s pressure. The Ponies need to limit turnovers, especially late in the game.
Paighton Gilman’s offensive and rebounding abilities will be key, as will getting good production from Kassala Holdsclaw and Jaclyn Evans. Getting balanced contributions from Peyton Filius and Christina Mack will also be key to the Ponies' advantage.
“We’re looking to get better and just get ready for our conference stuff next week,” Kraske said.
As for the boys, the Ponies lost a heartbreaker at home the first time around against the Bison.
In a one-point loss that came right down to the wire, the Ponies felt they could have won that game. And against one of the state's top AA programs, a win like that would be huge for the young Ponies.
“Our kids should know that we played them well and when we go down there we don’t just have the confidence to play basketball,” Havre High head coach Andy Smith said. “But to go down there and compete to win. We can play with this team and we are capable of this team so we need to go down there and play like that.”
In their first meeting, the Ponies gave up an 18-4 lead to start the game. And with good offense and good defense, the Ponies battled back. If the Ponies can get off to a much better start this time, they have to like their chacnes.
One of the keys to this game will be the Ponies defesne. The Great Falls guards are fast and talented. They can score in a hurry and are always looking to put the ball on the floor and penetrate to the basket. The Havre defenders need to keep their feet moving and keep the GFH guards in front of them.
“That is the biggest thing on defense,” Smith said. “We have to stop their guards from breaking us down with dribble penetration.”
On offense, the play from Logan Connor and Anfernee Standing Rock is always much needed. But the Ponies have been spreading the ball around much better as of late and that needs to continue. Brandon Smith, Kade Barsotti, Corderro Strickland, Ryan Myers and Ryan Brandt have all gotten in on the offensive production lately, and them doing so makes the Ponies much more dangerous.
Brandt has really come on hot in the last week, coming off the bench and hitting big 3-pointers to spark the offense several times now.
Tonight the HHS girls will host Great Falls at 7 p.m. and the HHS boys will take to the road to face Great Falls at 7 p.m. as well.