With two tough conference games on the road this weekend, the Havre High boys basketball team returned home satisfied, despite the split.
Friday and Saturday, the Central A Blue Ponies ran into two conference opponents. Friday the No. 3 Livingston Rangers defeated the ponies 63-45, but Saturday the Ponies rebounded to defeat the Belgrade Panthers 52-47. With the conference split the Ponies remain in third place in the conference and now hold a 3-3 record in the Central A.
“We got the split this weekend,” Havre High head coach Andy Smith said. “That is pretty good when you think about how you could have dropped both conference games.”
The Rangers came out and were relentless against the Ponies on Friday. And it wasn’t that the Ponies didn’t play well, or put forth the effort, it was just one of those games where it seemed like the Rangers could do no wrong.
HHS played well on offense and defense, but the Rangers showed off why they are on the No. 3 team in the state.
“They came out and played really well,” Smith said. “Livingston is tough and tough to defend and they play up-tempo. They have shooters and have guys that can get to the basket, and it was probably the most complete basketball team we have faced this season. They have all the pieces to be a good basketball team.”
It was only a two-point deficit for the Ponies after the first eight minutes. But the Ponies struggled to keep pace as the game continued. They did well to score 45, but despite playing better and better defense as the season continues on, the Ponies couldn’t put a cap on the Rangers’ offense that was firing on all cylinders.
“It seemed like everything they did was right.” Smith said. “But we were excited to see how we played after playing well against Malta (on Tuesday), and I think the energy and effort was there. Unfortunately we ran into a really good team on a night where they played really well.”
Saturday was better for the Ponies, as they found a way to battle for 32 minutes and get the win over Belgrade.
The Ponies led for most of the night, but found themselves in trouble late. The Panthers applied their full court press and forced the Ponies into several crucial turnovers late in the fourth quarter. And to make things worse, the Ponies’ Ryan Brandt fouled out of the contest with four minutes still to play.
With the turnovers, the Panthers took a four-point lead, leaving the Ponies to rely on their full court press and free throw shooting if they hoped to capture the win. Justin Jensen also came up with a huge steal that resulted in a bucket for the Ponies, also giving the Ponies their lead back, and eventually the five-point lead. HHS outscored the Panthers 17-16 in the fourth quarter and also went 21-of-24 during the game from the charity stripe.
“We found a way to get the win,” Smith said. “The key to that game was that for the first time this year we had four guys finish with double digit scoring. That was nice, but once again I was impressed with our never give up attitude. It was a game that showed the kids what can happen if they battle for the entire 32 minutes. And they all made their free throws, especially down the stretch. After having a tough game Friday night, it really was impressive how the kids battled back on Saturday.”
Thurman Holdsclaw led the Ponies with 13 points. Brandon Smith and Ryan Brandt both added 12 each and Kade Rismon finished with 10. Brandt was also 5-of-5 from the free throw line, wile Holdsclaw was 7-of-8, Smith was 4-of-4 and Rismon was 2-of-2.
Thursday the Ponies are back on the road, facing the Great Falls Bison, but Saturday they return home, hosting the CMR Rustlers.
Livingston 63, Havre 45
No Individual Stats Available
Havre 52, Belgrade 47
Havre 10 13 12 17 — 52
Belgrade 7 16 8 16 — 47
Havre — Ryan Brandt 12, Rydell Ruff 1, Justin Jensen 4, Brandon Smith 12, Thurman Holdsclaw 13, Kade Rismon 10. Totals: 17 21-24.
Belgrade — Jared Bryant 6, Trevor Elliot 5, Ryan Townsend 3, Brandon Karnath 8, Shiloh Christopher 10, Trevor Mahn 11, Mark Erickson 4. Totals: 19 14-20.