All but one time this season, the Havre High girls basketball team has rolled past the conference completion. A few of those times were by narrow margins, but the Blue Ponies will look to continue their dominance.
HHS is gearing up for the Central A tournament at the CMR Fieldhouse in Great Falls. The tournament will run today through Saturday, and sitting in the No. 1 position with a first round bye, the Ponies (7-1, 11-7) have a very god shot at conference title as well as a state berth.
The Browning Indians (5-3, 10-8) enters as the No. 2 team, while the Belgrade Panthers (5-3, 9-9) enter as the No. 3 seed. The Lewistown Golden Eagles (2-6, 3-15) sit in fourth place and the Livingston Rangers (1-7, 2-16) sit in fifth.
Action will begin tonight at 8 p.m. when the Eagles face the Rangers. The Ponies will face the winner of that game on Friday at 8 p.m. in the semifinals, while Browning and Belgrade will tip off Friday at 2:30 p.m. in the other semifinal game.
With a first round bye, the Ponies have to be prepared to face anybody. The Rangers or Eagles will be first on the Ponies list, but if HHS makes it into the championship game, they will also have to be prepared for the Indians or Panthers. Any way it unfolds, the Ponies will continue to do what has propelled them into a successful season, they will just be worried about themselves, and how they play rather than what their opponent will be doing. From there, the Ponies just have to be ready to role with whatever team comes their way.
“It (the bye) will be fine.” Havre High head coach Dustin Kraske said. “It actually gives us an extra night to practice, and it gives us another chance to get better. I think anytime you can earn one step closer to playing in the championship game because of a first round bye, that plays to your advantage.”
And worrying about themselves, the Ponies have found success against every team in the conference this season.
HHS swept everybody but the Panthers. Belgrade defeated the Ponies in their second matchup 53-37, in one of the poorest offensive outings the Ponies had all seasons. But it still looks like the Indians are the toughest team to beat outside the Ponies, as Havre defeated the Indians twice by a total of three points, in two very well played games by both teams. HHS dominated the Rangers and Eagles in all four games this season.
The Ponies haven’t torched any scoreboards by any means, but average a nice 48 points per game this year. They also lead the league with 29 percent shooting from behind the 3-point arc, but are fourth in two-point field goals, shooting 33 percent. The Ponies have been led by Chanal Standing Rocks almost 10 points per game and Peyton Filius’ nine and Brandy Lambourne’s seven. Filius and Standing Rock also shoot over 40 percent from trey range, as the three guards combine for a heavy dose of the Ponies offense.
Kaylie Gilman, Morgan Mazurkiewicz and Lacey Waid also see solid minutes off the bench and give the Ponies solid depth. Mazurkiewicz has even worked her way into the a starting role the last several weeks and has averaged five points per game this season.
But inside, it has been Jaclyn Evans, Sammy Evans and Neya Bischoff helping balance the Ponies’ attack.
They three inside threats combine for about 15 points per game and about 12 rebounds per game. But Jaclyn Evans ads to the mix with 24 assists this season, second highest on the squad.
The Ponies offense is well balanced and can run the floor or slow it down. That is similar to their defense, where they can press teams, sit back and wait, zone or come out man-to man. And the HHS defense leads the league in points allowed with an average of 43 per game, and is third with 214 total steals.
“We have talked a little bit this week about Lewistown and Livingston,” Kraske said. “And some things they may potentially do against us. But all that does is help us improve, and we have taken that mindset to continue to get better. We aren’t going to change too many things about how we do business, our kids have had success playing how we play and we need to continue to play consistent.”
The tournament begins today with Lewistown and Livingston facing off at 8 p.m. Friday the Ponies will face the winner of that game at 8 p.m., following the Browning/Belgrade game at 2:30 p.m.