The time for the Havre High boys basketball team to play its best, and most consistent basketball of the season is now. The regular season is over, and while the Blue Ponies have seen a lot of good growth this year, it is going to take a lot of good basketball to get through the weekend.
Today through Saturday, the Ponies will be at the CMR Fieldhouse in Great Falls for the Central A divisional basketball tournament. The Ponies (4-4, 7-11) enter as the No. 3 seed, and will open their tournament play Friday at 1 p.m., as they take on the No. 2 Livingston Rangers (6-2, 15-3) in semifinal action.
The No. 1 Browning Indians (7-0, 16-1) have a first round bye, while No. 4 Belgrade (1-7, 2-16) will take on No. 5 Lewistown (1-7, 1-17) tonight at 6:30 p.m.
HHS has found a lot of success this season, but also rode the ups and downs of some inconsistencies.
To get past the Rangers, a squad that swept the Ponies this season, as well as stay competitive all weekend long, HHS has to play well, taking advantage of their abilities that they showed off during a major win over the Malta Mustangs and in a one point loss to Great Falls High. Both of those games showed just what the Ponies are capable of when their defense (zone or man to man) stands strong, and their offense fires on all cylinders, working together for the open and high percentage shot.
The Rangers beat the Ponies this season by scores of 54-43 and 63-45. The Blue Ponies are only averaging 43 points per game, the lowest in the conference, but to get over the hump the third time around, the Ponies’ defense will be key, as they lead the league by allowing just 48 points per game. The Rangers lead the league with 69 points per game, so it will be a tough, but doable task for the HHS defense.
Havre’s offense will also be under a lot of pressure, as the Rangers love to push the tempo and press teams with a variety of defensive looks.
Brandon Smith and Ryan Brandt have led the offense, but HHS also welcomes back Logan Connor for what will be his third game of the season. Smith has averaged nearly 14 points per game, while Brandt is close behind with nearly 11 per game. In Connor’s two games this season, he ahs averaged over 11 points, already knocking down six 3-pointers, third highest on the squad behind Smith and Brandt respectively. Thurman Holdsclaw and Rydell Ruff also have to play well down low. They combine for about 12 points per game, but are also amongst the leaders in rebounds. Rismon has a team high 42 offensive boards and Holdsclaw follows with 32. The Ponies are second in the league with 312 attempted treys and can really benefit from a few extra opportunities with key offensive rebounds.
HHS is also second in the Central A when it comes to taking care of the ball, a huge factor in grabbing wins come tournament time.
Not just against the Rangers, but also against the whole field, the Ponies have to play their game. The Ponies have the ability to push the ball, but seem to play better when they take some time off the clock and work for the best possible shot. They also house the ability to mix things up on defense and adapt to any opposing offensive style. But the Ponies’ defense can’t afford to give up major runs, leaving their offense to get caught in a shootout. This is especially true for teams like Browning who showed they could post over 80 on a team if left to run wild.
Just as every team does, the Ponies will look keep improving through the weekend with the hopes of making the state tournament. They will also look to improve on last year’s results, when the Ponies went 0-2 with two tough overtime losses to Browning and Belgrade. Boys action begins today with Belgrade and Lewistown tipping off at 6:30 p.m., but the Ponies will tip off on Friday at 1 p.m. against Livingston in the semifinals. The championship game will be Saturday night at 6:30 p.m. and the challenge game (if necessary) will be on Monday at 6 p.m.