After weeks of practice, the Havre High girls basketball program will finally take to the court this weekend. And after a great season last year, the Central A Blue Ponies will hopefully pick up right where they left off.
Friday in Malta, the Ponies will face the Class B Malta M-Ettes, and on Saturday, the Ponies will face the Class AA CMR Rustler in Great Falls.
But a year ago, the Ponies returned to the state tournament for the fifth time in the last six seasons. The defending Central A champion Ponies did so with just two seniors, as they also recorded an 11-7 record overall and a 7-1 conference record through the regular season.
The Ponies went 1-2 in the Class A state tournament, but return to the court with a lot of seasoned talent, and as possibly one of the favorites in all of Class A girls basketball. The Ponies are definitely a favorite in the Central A, as they will look to maintain their dominance over Belgrade, Lewistown, Livingston and Browning, all of which are gunning for HHS this season.
“We aren’t going to just take last year's success and think it will just carry over,” Havre High head coach Dustin Kraske said. “But we are going to build off of what we did and continue to get better.”
Sammy Evans, Jaclyn Evans, and Chanal Standing Rock are the only three Ponies to vacate the roster from last season.
But headlining the returning talent will be senior Neya Bischoff, juniors Peyton Filius, Brandy Lambourne, and Lacey Waid, as well as sophomore Morgan Mazurkiewicz. That core five made up the majority of the varsity minutes last season. Filius averaged nearly nine points per game and led the team with 37 assist and was named 1st Team All-Conference last season, as was Lambourne, who averaged over seven points per game, and led the Ponies with 48 steals.
But the Ponies have solid depth, as they will also get good production from juniors Haley Ohm, Breck Don, and Martha Stocker, and sophomore Tori Mazurkiewicz. But also making up the varsity/junior varsity rosters will be Tatiana Ralph, Jordyn Warren, Harlee Boucher, Taylor Carson, Makenna Cody, Rachel Majeres and Lindsey Kudrna.
With so many returners, and with the success found last season, the Ponies aren’t making many changes as they hope to keep building and moving forward.
On offense, the Ponies will be even faster than they have been the last couple of seasons. They have quick guards who can all handle the ball under pressure, and can get to the hole ore take a jump shot form outside. Bischoff, Stocker and Ohm are also relatively quick in the post, adding to the Ponies up-tempo threat.
And on defense, their quickness may be even more important, as the Ponies have really dominated teams with their press.
“We don’t have too many changes this year,” Kraske said. “But we are looking to play with a little quicker pace than we have in years past. And on defense, we really want to get after teams, that is something we have hung our hat on the last couple of years.”
But even with a whole lot of returning talent, and gaining a lot of attention early on, the Ponies have a tough schedule ahead of them, conference and non conference.
Once again, the Ponies will open their season against the Malta M-Ettes on Friday, a very talented Class B squad. But moving forward, the Ponies also face CMR on Saturday, a premier Class AA squad. It will be a very challenging start to the season, but it should only get more competitive as the season draws on. Along with facing the rest of the conference two times each, the Ponies also face teams like Conrad, Great Falls High and Shelby.
“We are pretty pleased with our schedule,” Kraske said. “We always look forward to playing teams like Malta, they have a great Class B program. But CMR and Great Falls High always help us out too, because they are traditionally great programs. But I think our league will be decent this year, and I think teams that were down will continue to battle and get better.”
HHS will play its first home game Dec. 20 against the GFH Bison.