For 32 minutes of basketball this season, the Havre High boys have given the Class AA CMR Rustlers all they wanted.
Unfortunately for the Blue Ponies, it’s the last 32 minutes that have been the difference.
Just like in last month’s game in Great Falls, the Blue Ponies gave the Rustlers a big scare in the first half of Saturday night’s rematch at the HHS gymnasium. But just like back in December, the Rustler's size took over in the second half.
CMR broke open a 16-13 halftime lead by going inside to 6-7 center Russ Morin, and went on to beat the Ponies 55-33 Saturday night in Havre. A similar thing happened to the Ponies last month at CMR, when HHS trailed the Rustlers by just one point at halftime.
“I don’t think we can play better defensively than we did in the first half tonight,” Havre High head coach Andy Smith said. “Our effort and the way we were physical with them was really a good thing to see.
“But in the end, they are a tough match up for us and their size just killed us in the second half. The offensive rebounds and the way they just kept after it in the second half, that really wore us down in the end.”
Despite the final score, the Blue Ponies did all they could to hang with the Rustlers, especially considering Havre got off to a 2-for-12 start from the floor and trailed 12-4 at the end of the first quarter. But thanks to a huge defensive effort from the entire HHS team, and some good shooting by Logan Connor in the second stanza, the Ponies trailed just 16-13 at halftime.
“I think it would be pretty tough to find a game where we played better defensively than we did in the first half tonight,” Smith said. “The kids just did a really good job against a big, strong and athletic team. And that’s what we can take away from this game, we know when our defensive effort is there, we have a chance to beat anybody.”
And the Ponies had their chances on Saturday night.
Anfernee Standing Rock scored five straight points to open the second half, giving the Ponies their first lead of the night at 18-16. Standing Rock got two more quick jumpers in as the Ponies led 22-18 with 3:35 left in the quarter. But that’s when Morin took over. The CMR center scored just two points in the first half, but he dominated the second half, scoring 16 points, including six straight points on put backs.
And with Morin dominating, CMR went on a 16-4 run which carried into the fourth quarter, and by the 4:51 mark in the game, the Rustlers were ahead 42-26, and the Ponies couldn’t mount a charge from there.
Morin finished with 18 points and eight boards, and he was also 8-of-12 from the floor. Tyler Stanich added 11 points in the CMR win, but HHS did hold CMR stars Kurtis Parsons and Gavin Hagfors to a combined 11 points. The glaring stat that hurt the Ponies however, was rebounding. The Rustlers held a commanding 42-22 edge on the boards, 17 coming on the offensive end.
“Our defensive execution in the half court was excellent tonight,” Smith said. “But when you work so hard to get stops and then they get easy points on offensive rebounds, that just kills you and that was a big difference in the second half. That really hurt us in the end.”
Standing Rock led Havre with 14 points and Connor chipped in with 12. Junior Ryan Brandt came off the bench to score five points as the Ponies dropped to 5-8 overall.
“It’s tough to lose when you feel like you played so hard, against a really good team,” Smith said. “But that’s the positive thing about the two games we played this week. We played two of the best teams in Class AA in Great Falls High on Thursday night and CMR tonight, and I thought we played well in both games. I don’t think we took a step back at all, and against two very good teams. So I’m really proud of the way the kids played and how hard they played the last two games.”
The Ponies will now get ready for two more huge tests. Havre plays a critical Central A road game Friday night in Lewistown, then returns home to face Butte Central on Saturday night at the Havre Central Gym.
CMR 55, Havre 33
C.M. Russell 12 4 15 24 — 55
Havre 4 9 11 9 — 33
C.M. Russell High — Kurtis Parsons 2 2-2 6, Tyler Stanich 3 4-4 11, Russ Morin 8 2-3 18, Cody Clausen 3 1-2 7, Gavin Hagfors 2 1-3 5, Isaiah Collins 1 0-0 3, Jayse McLean 1 0-0 2, Colton Carter 0 3-3 3, Cameron Oswood 0 0-0 0, Garrett Lankford 0 0-0 0, Josh Horner 0 0-0 0. Totals: 20 9-17 55.
Havre High — Logan Connor 4 2-2 12, Ryan Brandt 2 0-2 5, Anfernee Standing Rock 7 0-1 14, Drew Kafka 1 0-0 2, Ryan Myers 0 0-0 0, Kade Barsotti 0 0-0 0, Corderro Strickland 0 0-0 0, Brandon Smith 0 0-0 0, Thurman Holdsclaw 0 0-0 0, Kade Risman 0 0-0 0. Totals: 14 2-5 33.
Three-point goals: CMR 2 (Stanich, Collins), Havre 3 (Brandt, Connor 2). Total fouls: CMR 9, Havre 16. Fouled out: none.