The Havre High boys and girls basketball teams have been on the court almost nonstop as of late. And with both Blue Pony programs coming out of a weekend that held three games in four nights for each, this weekend's one nonconference game should be a welcomed break.
Tonight, both Central A squads will face Class 1B Conrad. Tipping off at 7 p.m. at the HHS gymnasium, the Pony girls (3-12) will host the Cowgirls for senior night. And at 7:30 p.m. the Havre boys (7-9) will face the Cowboys in Conrad.
Christina Mack and Paighton Gilman are the only two seniors this season. But in a season that has had more downs that ups, both Mack and Gilman have been very bright and positive spots in the Pony program.
“They are great,” Havre High head coach Dustin Kraske said. “Chris Mack and Paighton Gilman are two great kids and I couldn’t me more pleased with how they have played this year and kind of held us together. They are just both great kids who have bright futures and are going to go on and do great things.”
Gilman leads the team with nearly nine points per game, but has a season high of 26. She also leads the team with over five rebounds per game and has 16 of the team's 21 blocks. Mack is averaging over three points per game and is averaging almost four rebounds per game. Mack also has eight steals and 10 assists.
Both Gilman and Mack will be key again on Friday. But after Gilman left Monday’s game against Malta with a twisted ankle in the first half, it’s questionable how ready she will be to play with such a short turnaround.
“I fully expect her to play (tonight),” Kraske said. “But even if she plays sparingly, that’s just what it is.”
The Cowgirls won’t be an easy opponent for the Ponies.
Conrad is sitting in the No. 2 position in the 1B and is very competitive. The first time around the Ponies defeated the Cowgirls 49-46, and with the way things have gone for the Ponies this season, they would love to grab another win this time around. The Ponies have seen steady improvement and have been playing very well as of late. But even in some tight games, the Ponies are still working on getting over the hump and grabbing a much deserved win.
“They (Conrad) are going to come in here,” Kraske said. “Play hard and be physical that’s for sure. We are hoping to keep getting better before divisionals, that’s the plan.
y Evans has come on strong and has handled teams top offensive threats very well.
But offensively, the Ponies are still looking for some consistency and even contributions. Gilman has led the offense all season down low, but Kraske would love to see his guards begin to pour in some more points. Jaclyn Evans, Mack and Peyton Filius all have outside shooting abilities, but have been shy to shoot. Gilman will continue to be a threat inside, but having an outside presence to draw the defense away from the key will be crucial.
“Our kids are doing a nice job of getting the ball inside to our bigs,” Kraske said. “But sometimes they forget about their own skill sets. Our guards can shoot threes and knock them down as well as get to the basket.”
The ability to be a threat inside and out will especially be beneficial come tournament time.
The HHS boys will also have their hands full on the road on Friday. The first time around the Ponies defeated the Cowboys 51-46.
“We were able to bet them by four or five at home, but the game wasn’t decided until the last minute of the game. It was hard fought and I don’t expect anything less. It will probably be more difficult, playing on the road, it seems like they have always shot really well at home.”
The Ponies will have their hands full with guards Graham Grubb, Grant Grubb, and post player Ben Moerkerke. Both Graham and Grant Grubb combined for 23 points the first time around and Moerkerke added 16.
The Cowboys are in the always tough 1B and have lost a lot of close games this season. But records can be deceiving, and the Ponies know Graham Grubb, Grant Grubb, Moerkerke and the Cowboys will prove to be tough opponents at home.
“They are as good a guards we will see.” Smith said. “And that Moerkerke kid, he is a big 6-7 kid that makes them more than one dimensional. We had all kinds of fits with Moerkerke.”
Overall, the Ponies need solid offense and defense to grab the non conference win. Smith says they need to play defense with their feet and not their hands and the offense needs to just keep doing what they are doing. When Anfernee Standing Rock and Logan Connor are hot, the Ponies as a team are hot.
Tonight at 7 p.m. at the HHS gymnasium, the lady Ponies (3-12) will host the Cowgirls for senior night. And at 7:30 p.m. the Havre boys (7-9) will face the Cowboys in Conrad.