This weekend, the Havre High girls basketball team has the opportunity to turn the tables on two non-conference opponents.
Early in the season, both the Class AA Great Falls High Bison and CMR Rustlers defeated the Central A Blue Ponies. Both losses came down to the wire and were heartbreakers for the Ponies, and HHS is ready to return the favor. Tonight the Ponies will face the Bison in Great Falls. But on Saturday night, the Ponies return to the Havre High gymnasium to host the Rustlers at 5 p.m.
The Ponies are 7-5 overall, but are amongst the top Class A teams in the state when they play at their best. And if the Ponies play well over the next two games, they could very easily record two more wins.
“I think both teams are very good,” Havre High head coach Dustin Kraske said. “Great Falls High is playing a little bit better than CMR, but both are very good basketball teams. We have to play well to have success against them, and that would be great for our kids to help continue their confidence.”
In the first meeting the Bison defeated the Ponies 46-43. The Ponies had numerous chances to move past he Bison and grab the win, but suffered the loss due to costly turnovers. The Pony offense shot very well overall, and will need another solid outing tonight, minus the turnovers this time.
On the defensive end, the Ponies will have to remain aware of Markaela Francis, Jessica Keller, Kelsey Devlin, and Callee Remsen. They typically lead the scoring efforts, and will again present the Havre defense with several areas of concern. Last time around, Devlin led the Bison with 10 points.
Saturday is another winnable game for the Blue Ponies, but the Pony defense will have their hands full yet again.
The Rustlers have a ton of offensive weapons to account for. Taylor Edwards, Hannah Vining, and Dieondra Denton all scored double digits in the first matchup, and are accented by a very talented bench. Denton dashed the Ponies hopes with a last-second field goal in regulation to tie the game. Once in overtime, the Pony defense couldn’t contain the Rustlers, as CMR scored eight in the extra frame for the win.
The scoring is always tough to match when facing a Class AA program, but the Rustlers also rebound very well. They out-rebounded the Ponies 52-27, and that can’t happen again. If the Ponies can step up and control the boards, behind a stiff defense and an explosive offense, HHS should be able to return home with another win.
The Pony defense has been very strong as of late.
They do most of their damage in the half court, and make it extremely difficult for teams to score. Lacey Waid seems to draw the most difficult defensive assignment, but has shown lockdown capabilities. Waid will look to keep leading the defensive pressure as the Ponies look to grab two wins.
“The biggest thing is that we have to play together,” Kraske said. “We have to play disciplined basketball, get a hand up, and make sure everybody is doing their part. We have to keep both teams off the offensive boards, and I am confident that our kids will do that in both games. We will have our hands full, but that will be good.”
On offense, the story hasn’t changed since the last time the Ponies faced these two Great Falls teams.
Brandy Lambourne and Peyton Filius continue to lead the scoring efforts night in and night out, while the guard play has really stepped up. Waid has stepped up her offense as well, while Morgan and Tori Mazurkiewicz have shown they can get to the free-throw-line with consistency, as well as give HHS more fire power from 3-point range. Neya Bischoff’s play will also be important, as her presence inside gives the offensive attack balance. HHS will be without Filius, at least for tonight however. She injured an ankle in Monday’s loss to Browning.
“I am not a fan of playing while 50 or 60 percent when you can rest for a few days and avoid a nagging injury for the rest of the season.” Kraske said. “But this will give some of our kids an opportunity to turn up their game, and with any luck make the whole team better in the process. I think collectively, each kid will play better, and that is the reality of the situation, they all have to play better.”
Tonight the Ponies will face the Bison in Great Falls, and on Saturday, the Ponies return home to host the Rustlers at 5 p.m.