BUTTE — Despite the Havre High Blue Pony girls holding a No. 1 seed and the Billings Central Rams holding a No. 2 seed this weekend at the Class A state basketball tournament, there may not have been a tougher first-round matchup for the Ponies.
“They were more physical than we were,” Havre High head coach Dustin Kraske said. “Especially early. And we couldn’t buy a basket in the first half and I thought that took the confidence out of us a little bit. It wasn’t for lack of effort; the kids did the best that they could, but did they play their best, no. And they would be the first to tell you that. But we gave it our best shot and Billing Central is a great team and did a nice job.”
HHS may not have shot well in the first half, but Thursday’s game was a total defensive battle to start, and the Rams scorers proved they couldn’t be contained for long.
Halfway through the second frame, the Rams began to widen the gap on the Ponies. The Ponies’ tough man to man defense held the Rams to just eight first quarter points, but the combination of HHS missing shots in the paint and the Rams finding their rhythm, a 15-11 gap soon turned to a 25-15 gap at the break.
Unfortunitely for the Ponies, the scoring barrage continued for the Rams in the second half. The Ponies didn’t allow one 3-pointer in the first half, but Kayla Lucas came out in the third quarter and hit three, including two in the opening three minutes. The Ponies were outscored 18-12 in the third quarter and trailed 43-27 with eight minutes left to play.
“I think both teams just felt each other out a little bit to start,” Billing Central head coach Jeff Malby said. “But we saw on film they were going to be out on us hard and in our grills. We just got open and tried to get to the rim to try to get them to back off. And I think Kayla Lucas was able to hit those threes because early on she was looking to get to the rim and they backed off a little bit in the second half.”
The fourth quarter was a better one for the Ponies, outscoring the Rams 15-14. Seven of those points came form the free throw line, as the Ponies found ways to get inside and into the contact.
Rebounds were also a factor, as the Rams out rebounded the Ponies 32-17. The Rams also helped themselves with 10 offensive boards in the second half, scoring on second and third chance opportunities.
“They got a ton of offensive rebounds the second half,” Kraske said. “We would make them take the shot that we wanted and they would get the offensive put back and that’s tough.”
Overall, the Ponies shot 43 percent from the field in the first half and 40 percent from the field in the second. The rams shot 58 percent in the first half and just 38 percent in the second half. The Ponies defense had a lot of big stops, including 19 forced turnovers, but the offense just couldn’t find the stroke the Ponies needed. HHS also had 20 turnovers, as the Rams pressed for most of the game.
Brandy Lambourne led the Ponies with 10 points, while Peyton Filius followed with nine points and four assists. Chanal Standing Rock had eight points and Sammy Evans finished with six points and four steals.
It wasn’t how the Central A champions wanted to start their state run, but after the loss, the Ponies were already to move on and see if they could put together a better game the second time around. Today at 12:30 p.m. the Ponies tip off against Polson (No. 2 NW). Dillon beat Polson 48-40.
“I would expect our kids to come out fired up and ready to go (today) because that is the character they have," Kraske said. "(Polson) is a good team and hopefully we just play better than we did today, and I would anticipate we will do that.”
Billings Central 57, Havre 42
Central 8 17 18 14 — 57
Havre 5 10 12 15 — 42
Billings Central — Sammy Elliott 2-4 2-4 6, Katie Cummins 4-9 4-6 12, Kayla Lucas 7-11 2-3 19, Taylor Hanser 3-7 0-0 6, Justyn Juhl 1-3 0-0 2, Allie Lucas 0-3 4-6 4, Hadley Ryan 3-6 2-4 8. Totals 20-43 14-23 57.
Havre — Brandy Lambourne 4-6 2-4 10, Jaclyn Evans 1-4 2-3 4, Sammy Evans 3-4 0-0 6, Peyton Filius 2-4 3-4 9, Chanal Standing Rock 3-12 2-2 8, Morgan Mazurkiewicz 1-2 0-0 3, Lacey Waid 1-3 0-0 2, Neya Bischoff 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 15-36 9-13 42.
3-point goals — BC 3-6 (Lucas 3-5, Elliott 0-1), Havre 3-11 (Filius 2-3, Mazurkiewicz 1-2, Lambourne 0-2, Evans 0-1). Rebounds — BC 32 (Juhl 9, Hanser 7, Ryan 6), Havre 17 (Evans 4). Assists — BC 8 (Lucas 3), Havre 10 (Filius 4). Steals — BC 7 (Lucas 4), Havre 8 (Evans 4). Blocks — BC 0, Havre 3 (Filius 2, Evans 1). Turnovers — BC 19, Havre 20. Fouls — BC 16, Havre 19. Fouled out — Mazurkiewicz. Technicals — none.