Unfortunately for the Havre High boys basketball team, Thursday night’s nonconference basketball game came down to a controversial moment in deciding the winner and loser of the matchup.
The Central A Blue Ponies hosted the Class AA Great Falls Bison at the Havre High gymnasium Thursday night. And in a game that liter
ally came down to the wire, it was the Bison who earned the 38-37 win in Havre. With the win, the Bison improved to 2-4, and with the loss, the Ponies dropped to 1-5 on the season.
HHS never really got things rolling offensively, but the defense played great from start to finish.
The Ponies kept an explosive offense to just 38 points in the contest, with Great Falls putting up 11 in the first, eight in the second, 12 in the third and seven in the fourth quarter. The Ponies played a 2-3 zone the entire game, straying away from the man-to-man and full court press they have showed off this season. And doing so, the Ponies kept the Bison way under their usual production by forcing a handful of turnovers and forcing the Bison to settle for tough and deep shots.
The Bison committed 13 turnovers in the game. And shooting, the Ponies defense played a major role, as the Bison got off to a 5-for-17 start in the first quarter. Also in the first quarter the Bison were 1-of-8 from three-point range. In the game, the Bison were 14-of-46 from the field. HHS also held Skyke Smalls to five points and Dylan Tatarka to 13, normally two very potent shooters.
“We felt like it would be tough to match up,” Havre High head coach Andy Smith said. "We like to play man, but we would have tough matchups because of how quick their guards are. And for not playing a lot of our zone before this game, the kids did an excellent job of getting to their spots and did a great job communicating. I just don’t have enough good things to say about the kids’ effort tonight, they did a good job.”
It was the tough defense that kept the Ponies in the game. HHS trailed 11-4 after the first quarter and 19-14 at the half. But the Ponies chipped away at the Bison and came within 31-27 after the third quarter. In the third, the Ponies put up 13 points, including two huge 3-pointers by Ryan Brandt and one more from Brandon Smith.
The fourth quarter is where things got interesting.
The Ponies trailed for the first four minutes of the frame, before Kade Rismon knocked down a deuce to give the Ponies a 34-33 lead. The Bison retook a 36-34 lead with 3:00 on the clock and began to milk the clock moving forward. Great Falls’ Jace Anderegg hit two bonus free throws with 35 seconds left to take a 38-34 lead, but Smith was heroic again for the Ponies, this time hitting a trey with 21 seconds on the clock.
The Bison’s lead was down to 38-37. Tatarka missed a bonus free throw for the Bison, and the Ponies were off and running with a Thurman Holdsclaw board. Brandt took the ball the length of the floor and forced a tough shot with just seconds left to play, and Holdsclaw was there for yet another board. Holdsclaw put up a shot of his own just under the basket, but missed the shot and grabbed his rebound again. But this time Holdsclaw went up with the ball with several Bison hanging off him, missing his second attempts at the buzzer.
There was no foul called, despite the roar of the crowd and the Ponies' hard fought battle came to an end one point shy of the victory.
“All you can ask for when you are playing a good team,” Coach Smith said. “Is a chance to win the game at the end, and we had our chance. We had an opportunity at the end and it was through the kids’ effort and hard work all game long. They played their hearts out, I couldn’t be more proud of them. Unfortunately we just didn’t get the break that we needed.”
Brandon Smith finished the game with a team high 13 points and Brandt finished the game with 12 for the Ponies. Holdsclaw had four points as did Rismon, and Rydell Ruff and Justin Jensen finished with two points each. Holdsclaw also finished with nine rebounds.
The narrow GFH win means the Bison will retain the Ole' Goat Trophy for yet another year. HHS last won back the rivalry trophy played for annually by the Bison and Ponies in 1991.
Now at 1-5, the Ponies enter the Holiday break. Havre will play again on Jan. 6, when they face Lewistown in conference play on the road.
Great Falls 38, Havre 37
Great Falls 11 8 12 7 – 38
Havre 4 10 13 10 - 37
Great Falls – Dylan Tatarka 13, Lukas Vining 6, Lane Beyl 5, Skyke Smalls 5, Jace Anderegg 3, Joe Tinsley 2, Dylan Swandel 2, Tre Keels 2.
Havre – Brandon Smith 13, Ryan Brandt 12, Thurman Holdsclaw 4, Kade Rismon 4, Rydell Furr 2, Justin Jensen 2.