The start to the 2012-13 boys basketball season was nothing short of a huge challenge for a young, and inexperienced Havre High basketball team.
Facing a defending state champion and a perennial Class AA powerhouse, the Blue Ponies knew things would be difficult, and that’s exactly what it was.
Havre lost its season-opening game to the Malta Mustangs, 67-31 Friday night in Malta, and the Ponies dropped to 0-2 after falling to the C
MR Rustlers, 68-41 Saturday night at the Havre High gymnasium.
But as difficult as things were for a Blue Pony squad which only returns two starters from last year’s squad, new head coach Curt Leeds said this weekend’s experience will only serve to make his team better.
“It’s tough but in a good way,” Leeds said. “We can learn a lot from playing two really good teams like we did this weekend. We can always learn a lot and get better from games like these and from having teams like this on our schedule. And I think we saw that tonight because we learned a lot from the Malta game and I thought we played much better tonight.”
The Blue Ponies might have been completely over-matched against a tall and athletic CMR team on Saturday night, but they certainly weren’t lacing in the effort department.
CMR went ahead 10-4 early on, but Havre got back-to-back 3-pointers from Dane Warp and Ramsey Drew to cut the lead to 18-14 at the end of the first quarter.
In the second period, CMR started to pull away with its tough rebounding and the shooting of Joey Marzion and Tanner Olsen, who combined for three triples in the second quarter to give the Rustlers a commanding 35-19 at intermission.
And while CMR extended its lead to 57-29 after three quarters, the Ponies didn’t pack it in, and they battled right to the end, putting up 12 points in the fourth and fighting for every loose ball and rebound they could get their hands on.
However, in the end, CMR had too much size and talent for Havre to overcome, and the Rustlers showed off that athleticism with several highlight dunks in the second half.
“Today was a lot better,” Leeds said. “I thought we improved ten-fold from how we played in Malta. Our effort was better, our rebounding was better, we were better defensively and I thought we were much more physical. I just thought we played much, much better.”
Warp, in only his second game as a Blue Pony, led the way with 12 points, while Kade Rismon added seven points and seven rebounds. The Ponies also got six points each from freshman Nate Rismon, as Drew and Thurman Holdsclaw. CMR, which lost in overtime to Glacier High on Friday night in heartbreaking fashion, was led by Marzion’s 23 points, while Olsen chipped in with nine.
And while Leeds felt his team was much-improved against the powerful Rustlers on Saturday, little went right for the Ponies in their season debut on Friday.
In Malta, the defending Class B champion Mustangs broke open a close first-quarter game by ripping off a 19-7 run in the second stanza to lead 30-12 at the break. Malta continued to stifle the Pony offense in the second half, while the mustangs went to outscore Havre 37-19 in the final 16 minutes.
“Things went fine in the first quarter,” Leeds said. “It was 4-2 right towards the end of the quarter, and I thought we were playing pretty well defensively at that point. But they (Mustangs) got going right at the end of the quarter and it carried over to the second.
“They (Mustangs) are a very solid team, and we’re still learning and figuring things out,” Leeds added. “But that’s what I liked about how we played tonight (CMR). We learned a lot about ourselves from the game against Malta and we improved quite a bit.”
Holdsclaw paced the Ponies in Malta with nine points, while Warp added
eight, Kade Rismon had six and Brian Smith chipped in with five. The Mustangs got 19 points from Tucker Schye and 12 from Kendall Denham.
And now, off to an 0-2 start, the Blue Ponies will turn their attention to a tough, Central A road trip south this weekend as the Ponies travel to Livingston and Belgrade to open up Central A play this Friday and Saturday.
“We’re pretty young and we’re inexperienced,” Leeds said. “So even though we lost two games, this was a good starting point for us. This team needs experience and games like these to learn from. And with how we played against CMR, you can see we’re already learning.”
The Blue Ponies won’t play at home again until Jan. 4 when they host Lewistown.
Malta 67, Havre 31
Havre 5 7 10 9 — 31
Malta 11 19 21 16 — 67
Havre — Kody Hickman 1, Nate Rismon 2, Dane Warp 8, Bryan Smith 5, Thurman Holdsclaw 9, Kade Rismon 6.
Malta — Kendall Denham 12, Kaden Bedwell 3, Dalton Brookie 2, Jeremy Costin 8, Spencer Van Wicken 3, Zach Czerda 9, Tate Carney 5, Tucker Schye 19, Troy Manoukian 6.
CMR 68, Havre 41
CMR 18 17 22 11 – 68
Havre 12 7 10 12 – 41
CMR — Jayce McLean 7, Deakwan Carter 2, Anthony Bonilla 4, Josh Horner 7, Tanner Olson 9, Joey Marzion 23, Andre Longhorne 3, Mason storm 8, Eric Dawson 2, Dayrl Williams 3.
Havre — Nate Rismon 6, Dane Warp 12, Brian Smith 4, Ramsey Drew 6, Thurman Holdsclaw 6, Kade Rismon 7.