Ponies clobber Browning in Central A title game, head back to Class A state tournament
GREAT FALLS — Throughout the regular season, the Havre High girls basketball team got the reputation of being a team that was susceptible to getting off to slow starts offensively. The delay in production made the Blue Ponies beatable to lesser completion at times. but not this weekend.
Playing at the Central A divisional tournament at the CMR Fieldhouse in Great Falls, the No. 1 Ponies instead, played like a team poised to make a run at a 2013 Class A state title.
After winning back-to-back regular season titles last week, the Ponies won back-to-back divisional titles Saturday night. On Friday the Ponies defeated the Livingston Rangers 54-28 in the semifinals. And on Saturday the Ponies continued to roll, defeating the No. 2 Browning Indians 69-42, earning the conference title for the second straight year.
“They (Ponies) played fantastic, just fantastic,” Havre High head coach Dustin Kraske said. “They came out of the lockerroom and had a great warm up and just shot the lights out. They spread the ball around side to side, and shot when they were open. They played very, very well, we rebounded well, we played defense very well, and I thought our kids just did a great job and played well all around.
“That was probably our team’s best game of the year,” Blue Pony guard Peyton Filius added. “We talk about valuing the ball every possession and not taking any possession off on offense or defense. We know Browning is a good team and scrappy, so we knew we had to take care of the ball.”
With the Ponies and Indians facing off in the championship game, fans should have been expecting another tight matchup.
The teams split in the regular season, including a 44-37 win by the Ponies in the season finale to win the regular season title. But after a dominating win over the Rangers the night before, the Ponies played their best, and most complete game of the season on Saturday, defeating the Indians by 29-points.
Offensively, the Ponies got off to an outstanding start, running the floor and scoring from all over the lineup. The Indians came out in a zone defense, and it was a bad night to try and force the Ponies to knock down jump shots.
“That is the purpose, they wanted to keep us in front of them,” Kraske said. “But our kids did a nice job of creating space and knocking down shots. We were able to catch and shoot in rhythm and I think that was the biggest difference. They are playing very well right now with a lot of confidence, and it was top to bottom confidence.”
It didn’t take much time at all for the Ponies to break the zone, especially in part by the two first quarter 3-pointers by Morgan Mazurkiewicz and another by Brandy Lambourne. Mazurkiewicz scored nine points in the opening frame, while Lambourne added six and Peyton Filius and Tori Mazurkiewicz combined for another five points, as the Ponies took a 5-5 first quarter tie, and turned it into a 20-8 lead heading into the second.
It was one of the best games by the Ponies this season, and it was fueled by their very hot start. HHS shot nearly 55 percent from the field in the first eight minutes.
And moving forward, the points kept piling on as the Ponies scored 19 in the second, 19 in the third, and 11 in the fourth. And after the dust settled, the Ponies finished with six girls finding their way into the scorer’s book. Filius led the team with 20 points, while Morgan Mazurkiewicz finished with 19, and Lambourne finished with 15. Lacey Waid also finished with eight, while Tori Mazurkiewicz scored five and Haley Ohm scored two. Lambourne also recorded a double-double with 10 assists.
The Blue Ponies shot over 57 percent from the field in the first half before finishing the night shooting over 54 percent. They were also 8-for-18 from 3-point range for 44 percent
“We just talked about moving the ball and if you were open and feeling it, shoot it. I guess we were feeling it,” Morgan Mazurkiewicz said.
And Lambourne agreed.
“We didn’t think about it too hard,” Lambourne said. “We just let it flow, and if we had an open shot we took it. If anything, we were just really excited, we weren’t nervous at all and this is awesome. Browning beat us at home, so coming back and seeing them a third time, it was a great win.”
But the Blue Pony defense wasn’t to be outdone on the big stage.
Defense was also key in the Ponies’ victory, as they allowed double digit scoring in a quarter just twice. The Indians scored 11 in the second and 14 in the fourth quarter, but also committed 15 turnovers and shot just 28 percent from the field and 11 percent from 3-point range. The Indians were 2-for-17 from behind the three-point arc. Marti Eagle Feathers led the Indians with just 11 points, while Ashley Burd added 10.
“We were trying really hard to play five-on-five basketball,” Kraske said. “It is very hard to score against good five-on-five basketball. So that was our focus.”
The championship win was the encore from Friday night’s dominating win over the Rangers in the semifinals.
HHS started the weekend with a very well rounded win, and got a lot of great production from Lacey Waid. At the 7:29 mark in the second quarter, the Ponies lost Filius with an ankle injury. She left for the remainder of the game, and that meant somebody else had to step up and fill the scoring void. Waid did just that.
The Ponies already lead 14-4 after the first quarter, but after Filius went down, the Ponies piled on a 17-6 run in the second quarter to hold a 31-10 lead at the break. Waid scored eight points in the first quarter and seven in the second, leading the Ponies with 15 points in the first five minutes against a struggling Rangers’ team.
And Waid, typically known for her driving ability and lockdown defense, was a little surprised with her production. On the night, she was 6-for-9 from the field and 2-for-2 from three-point range.
“I don’t know what it was,” Waid said. “I wasn’t feeling anything, my shot was just on tonight (Friday) I guess. Sometimes before I would just go out there kind of like a psycho, but I just have to relax and my shots fall. After the first shot I knocked down, I thought maybe I should try that again, and I did, and it went in. Playing calm worked for me.”
The Ponies outscored the Rangers 23-18 in the second half to punch their ticket to Saturday night’s chipper.
Waid led with 17 points, while Lambourne added 11 points and seven assists. Morgan Mazurkiewicz also added nine points, while Ohm finished with six.
HHS is now 13-7 overall, and will now represent the Central A as a No. 1 seed in the Class A state tournament for the second straight year. The Ponies will play either Stevensville or Hamilton in the first round Thursday night at the Butte Civic Center.
The Central A still has a challenge game to decide as well. Tonight in Great Falls, Browning will play Livingston for a berth in the state tournament.
Havre 69, Browning 42 (1st)
Browning 8 11 9 14 – 42
Havre 20 19 19 11 – 69
Browning — Rachel Heptner 4, Jessica Magee 3, Autumn Little Plume 3, Tiara Gilham 7, Marti Eagle Feathers 11, Ashley Burd 10, Brittney Wolf Tail 4.
Havre — Brandy Lambourne 15, Morgan Mazurkiewicz 19, Lacey Wald 8, Peyton Filius 20, Tori Mazurkiewicz 5, Haley Ohm 2.
Havre 54, Livingston 28 (sf)
Livingston 4 6 4 14 – 28
Havre 14 17 18 5 – 54
Livingston — Emily Fochs 2, Megan Schoenen 6, Macy Ricketts 8, Megan Hawkins 1, Meadow Ingram 2, Callie Ellingson 2, Chelsea Woods 2, Meghan Gibson 2, Sierra higgs 3.
Havre — Brandy Lambourne 11, Harlee Boucher 1, Morgan Mazurkiewicz 9, Lacey Waid 17, Peyton Filius 4, Tori Mazurkiewicz 3, Haley Ohm 6, Neya Bischoff 3.