After a rough, disappointing stretch of play, the Havre High boys basketball team was looking for a spark. The Blue Ponies were looking for some way to turn their play around, and they were doing so against one of the top Class B teams in the state.
But despite the tough competition, the Central A Ponies played what looked like their best game of the season thus far. Hosting the Malta Mustangs at the Havre High gymnasium on Tuesday night, the Ponies earned a statement win, defeating the Mustangs 57-43.
Tuesday’s win was huge for the Ponies. Malta defeated Havre in the Ponies’ first game of season, but the Ponies turned the tables on the Mustangs. And HHS needed the win desperately, as they were coming off of a very disappointing weekend where they went 0-2, and had a very poor offensive showing in both games.
“We were talking about this before the game," Havre High head coach Andy Smith said. “You always find those games that kind of turn things around, and show the kids that they are capable of competing at a high level. And we needed something like this to change our season. You find out a lot about your team when they face some adversity, and over the weekend we didn’t play Blue Pony basketball. We didn’t play enthused and we didn’t play with any urgency. To see the kids play like that tonight, I was proud of the total team effort.”
HHS made its move in the second quarter, as the Ponies overcame an early four-point deficit and began to build on a lead of their own.
Trailing 14-10 after eight minutes, the Ponies used 5-of-11 shooting and eight rebounds to overtake the Mustangs 22-20 in the second quarter. And from there, the Ponies only got better as they began to pull away from the Mustangs with great defense, amazing offense, and key rebounds.
In the second half the Ponies' offense got hot. They were 6-of-9 in the third quarter and 6-of-7 shooting in the fourth quarter, as they outscored the Mustangs 35-23 in the second half, earning the 14-point victory. HHS also dominated the boards in the second half, earning 14 rebounds, and limiting the Mustangs to just five. And key offensive plays down the stretch included Brandon Smith converting two physical and one situations late in the fourth quarter. On the game the Ponies were 10-of-13 from the free throw line, another huge advantage, as the Mustangs were just 9-of-17 fro the charity stripe.
Smith finished with 18 points, but it was Ryan Brandt who knocked down four treys and led the Ponies with 19 points.
Thurman Holdsclaw also added 12 points, but electrified the Ponies with a team-high 10 rebounds.
“We haven’t been rebounding very well the last few games,” Holdsclaw said. "Last week at practice that was what we focused on, and before the game that was what I was really going to try and do. I don’t know what really happened during the game, but I just got really mad and really focused on getting rebounds.”
The Ponies' physical defense did their part, but also got a hand from Rydell Ruff and Justin Jensen on offense.
Ruff finished with four points, both coming late in the fourth quarter when the Ponies needed everything they had to put the Mustangs away. Jensen also finished with four points, including a nice runner off the glass in the first half. But where Jensen really sparked the Ponies was coming off the bench and forcing a couple of key turnovers and grabbing five assists against a crafty Mustangs’ defense.
“Every kid we put on the floor tonight contributed,” Smith said. “When they got their shot and got into the game, they all contributed in some way. This was the break we needed, now we have to build on it.”
HHS (4-7) is back in action this weekend, when the Ponies play two conference games on the road. The Ponies will face Livingston on Friday and Belgrade on Saturday.
Havre 57, Malta 43
Havre 10 12 12 23 — 57
Malta 11 6 11 12 — 43
Havre — Ryan Brandt – 19, Brandon Smith 18, Thurman Holdsclaw 12, Justin Jensen 4, Rydell Ruff 4.
Malta — Kendall Denham 19, Tucker Schye 9, Landon Costin 6, Zach Handley 6, Kyle Boos 3.