This time last season, the Havre High boys basketball team put together a great streak of basketball to send the Blue Ponies into the divisional tournament with a lot of positive momentum.
And now with just four games left in the regular season, the Central A Ponies are hoping for a similar streak, starting this weekend with two very important matchups.
Tonight the Ponies will ho
st the conference rival Lewistown Golden Eagles at the Havre High gymnasium. Tip off will be at 7 p.m. And Saturday the Ponies will return to the road, where they will face the Shelby Coyotes in Shelby at 4 p.m. in non-conference action. HHS enters the weekend with a conference record of 3-2 and an overall record of 5-11, and currently sits as the No. 3 team in the conference.
“We have about three and a half weeks until the divisional tournament,” Havre High head coach Andy Smith said. “We want to use this last month to play our best basketball, so this is a big weekend. That is a goal every year, to play our best heading into the divisional tournament, and this is the time last year we went on a roll and won four straight games.”
The Ponies have already defeated both Lewistown and Shelby. Earlier in the season the Ponies took down the Eagles 49-40 on the road, and the Coyotes 46-37 at home. But despite the two wins, the Ponies are still preparing for what could be two very hard fought games. Both teams have talented teams with some decent individual talent.
Lewistown has still yet to find a win this season, but the Ponies will make sure they are ready to play, not wanting to be the Eagles' first victims of the year.
Any conference opponent can surprise a team. And with the Eagles housing offensive weapons like Tre Bradley and Andy Butcher, who combined for over 20 points last time around, the Ponies’ defense should be ready to play. In the previous matchup HHS did hold the Eagles to 40 points, but Lewistown will be improved and fired up to get another shot at the Ponies.
But the Havre offense should be able to score against the conference opponent. The Blue Pony offense isn’t shooting the lights out by any means, but when they find a nice balance between a few different players, they proved that they could find the holes in the Lewistown defense. Ryan Brandt, Brandon Smith and Kade Rismon all scored 11-points or higher last time, and Thurman Holdscalw kicked in a solid six. HHS will look for that balanced offense again.
Shelby will be a whole other source of problems for the Ponies.
Robby Miller went off for 21 points in his last showing against the Ponies and kept the Coyotes in striking distance all night long. Coach Smith said now that they know more about the Coyotes, his defense will have to key on Miller and know where he is at, at all times. Havre High did a solid job on the rest of the Coyotes offense, holding the next highest scorer to just four-points.
The Ponies also saw a balanced offense against Shelby, and would like to see that improve in their second game of the weekend. Brandt and Smith have both averaged double digit scoring this season, but will need help from Holdsclaw, Justin Jensen, Rismon and Rydell Ruff.
Defensively, the Ponies have found success in both their zone and man looks. But the last time HHS met these two teams, they abandoned their zone and found great success in their man-to-man. This helped the Ponies get some key stops late in the game, and allowed their offense to build solid leads before grabbing the win.
Depending on what defense the Ponies come out in this weekend, expect them to make the necessary changes and adjustments, as they know these games are winnable, but will be hard fought.
“It wasn’t like we blew these teams out,” Coach Smith said. “They were both games where both teams battled, and we will have to play well to beat them again. But like I said, we want to play our best basketball right now, the kids have been practicing hard and playing well. I think we are on the right path as far as the improvements we need to make, and we really need to execute well this weekend.”
Havre will host the Eagles on Friday at 7 p.m., but will face the Coyotes in Shelby on Saturday at 4 p.m.