Conference games always hold a little more importance and priority to a team, but the final conference game of the regular season, most of the time that is even more important than the rest.
That is the case for the both the Havre High boys and girls basketball teams this season. They are fighting for seeding for the conference tournament, and are still working out that kinks in hopes of peaking at the right time.
Saturday the Central A Blue Ponies will face the conference rival Browning Indians. At 5 p.m. the HHS girls will host the Indians at Havre Central, while the Pony boys are at Browning tonight.
Heading into the final game of the season, the No. 1 Havre girls are sitting at the top of the conference with a record of 6-1. The No. 2 Indians are 6-2 and will take the conference by a tie breaker if they beat the Ponies by more than just a couple of points. Earlier in the season the Ponies defeated the Indians 55-53 in Browning.
“This will be a big game for the both of us,” Havre High girls head coach Dustin Kraske said. “Whoever wins the game wins the conference basically.”
And home or not, the Ponies know they have a tough task at hand. Browning ins a very well rounded team. Jordan Weeatherwax, Daniell Madden, Marti Eagle Feathers and former Blue Pony Shay Tasey are all playing very well on both sides of the ball. Eagle Feathers is playing in her second game after an injury in mid January, but seems to have not skipped a beat in her return, averaging over 15 points per game this season. Weatherwax, Madden and Tatsey are all averaging over seven points per game each.
But the Ponies have solid weapons as well, as they continue to improve. Chanal Standing Rock leads the Ponies with just under 10 points per game. And Peyton Filius is averaging eight, while Sammy Evans and Brandy Lambourne are averaging right around seven each.
“We have to handle their pressure,” Kraske said. “Play together and continue to attack. I thought we played passive against Conrad (in a loss last weekend) and didn’t play how we have been practicing. I honestly can’t remember the last time we had a bad practice and the girls are working hard.”
In boys action, the Ponies aren’t as concerned with conference placement as their female counterparts.
The HHS boys are locked into third place with a record of 4-3 and the Indians are guaranteed first with a record of 7-0. But still looking for a tough road win, this game is key to the Ponies’ success in the post season.
“Last year we treated our final conference game like a tournament game because if we won we moved up a spot and earned a bye,” Havre High boys coach Andy Smith said. “We know we are set in third, but we want to be playing our best basketball heading into the divisional tournament. This is the last time to prep and the last game to get set heading into the tournament.”
HHS has seen itsshare of struggles over the last couple of weeks, but they have also had a couple of milestone wins this season. Brandon Smith’s 14 and Ryan Brandts 10 points per game have been key, but HHS needs multiple solid scorers to truly be effective. Thurman Holdsclaw is averaging just over six pints per game and Kade Rismon just over five. HHS will also have Logan Connor back in his second game, but his first game after a full week of practice. He gives the Ponies another set of technically sound hands, as well as an offensive threat from all over the floor.
“This is a great opportunity to play a team that is very close to the team we are playing in the first round of the divisional tournament.” Smith said.
The Pony boys arein Browning tonight at 7, while the HHS girls host the Indians at 5 p.m. Saturday at Havre Central.