Heading into the second week of the season, things aren’t getting any easier for the Havre High boys basketball team.
Last weekend, the Central A Blue Ponies dropped their first two games of the season, and are 0-2 heading into the first weekend of conference p
lay. Tonight, the Ponies will face the Belgrade Panthers in Belgrade, and Saturday the Ponies will face the Livingston Rangers.
But still young, and still in a mode of rebuilding, the Ponies aren’t consumed by the opposition just yet.
“We are taking a quick look at what (Belgrade and Livingston) has,” Havre High head coach Curt Leeds said. “Their scorers, and what they do, but we are just taking what we got from our first two games and trying to get better. We are still trying to improve the simple things like our base defense and motion offense.”
Defensively, the Ponies actually have a much more favorable matchup this weekend than they had when they dropped games to Malta and CMR last weekend. Leeds has made it clear that the HHS defense wants to force teams to beat them from outside. And though it will take slightly different strategies to do so, the Ponies feel they can do that to both the Panthers and Rangers.
Belgrade loves to shoot 3-pointers, and if left open, the Panthers can be very dangerous doing so. They have some of the more talented guards in the Central A, including Jeremy Ragar, Jered Bryant and Shiloh Christopher, and the three combined for nearly 40 points in a narrow loss to Butte High last weekend. Combined, Ragar and Bryant also shot over 55 percent from the 3-point range in that game. But Ragar, as well as the rest of the guards will be welcome to fire from behind the arc, as the Ponies will look to play aggressive defense, getting hands up and contesting every shot.
“That actually fits our defense better,” Leeds said. “They aren’t as big inside, and they want to be outside shooters, so we are going to make them beat us by trying to make contested shots.”
It is a similar situation in Livingston, as long as the Ponies can take away a 6-7 post threat in Marcus Payne.
Payne is a returning All-State big man that is being heavily recruited by colleges around the state. And after Livingston lost most of their guards to graduation, Payne is the team’s No. 1 threat on offense.
“Our goal is to collapse down on him every time he gets the ball in the post,” Leeds said. “It is going to be a good battle for Kade Rismon and Thurman Holdsclaw, but if our guards collapse down and help on defense, then we can make their guards try and beat us from outside too.”
But Rismon is also going to be looked at to help carry the offense as well.
Against the Panthers, Rangers, or anybody else this season, the Ponies need to find an offensive presence inside. Leeds thinks that presence can be Rismon, as long as he continues to strive to play more physical and make strong moves at the basket. The offense is set up to run through Rismon down low, as the Ponies look to achieve inside-out play, and even if he can’t knock down shots, his getting to the free throw line is crucial.
“We are really looking for Kade to solidify himself as a post player,” Leeds said. “We need his post presence, and our offense can’t really run until we have that presence.”
If Rismon can get things down low, it will open up the rest of the offense. Last weekend the Ponies totaled just 72 points in two games, but if guards like Brian Smith, Nate Rismon and Ramsey Drew can start to find open shots, the offense could start to make a bigger impression.
Tonight, the Ponies face the Panthers in Belgrade, and Saturday the Ponies will face the Rangers in Livingston.