It was a rare Tuesday night matchup for the Havre High boys basketball team, and in a game that went down to the wire, it was the Blue Pony defense helping to ensure the win. Tuesday night the Central A Ponies played host to the Class 2B Malta Mustangs where the Ponies came away with the 55-51 win at the Havre high gymnasium. It was the second win over the Mustangs this season, but it didn’t come easy for the Ponies. “We were talking as coaches,” Havre High head coach Andy Smith said. “And we didn’t expect anything less from Malta. I thought it was a good game.” The Ponies came out and played very well in the first three minutes. They took a 6-0 lead and allowed only three shots by the Malta offense. But as the quarter progressed the Ponies began to struggle on offense while the Mustangs chipped away at their lead. With less than two minutes to play in the first the Mustangs took a 12-10 lead, but by the end of the first eight minutes it was the Ponies holding the 15-14 lead. In the second quarter the battle continued. Both teams went point for point until they were all knotted up at 25-25 with two minutes to play. But the Ponies shot still wouldn’t fall, and in the last minutes of the half the Mustangs went on a 5-0 run to take a 30-25 lead at the break. During the first half the Ponies had their share of struggles. On offense they found themselves forcing a lot of shots they wouldn’t normally take. And on defense, the Ponies went through periods of giving up too many fouls and getting beat down the floor in transition. In the first half the Mustangs scored eight points from the free throw line, while the Ponies scored only two. But starting the second half the Ponies looked to have made some muchneeded adjustments. On offense they did a better job moving the ball and finding the open man. They also found ways to penetrate in one on one situations as well as finding the open man off the double team. “I thought we were getting good looks,” Smith said. “I thought the kids were showing patience in our offense and doing a nice job of finding the open guy.” On defense the Ponies also looked stronger in the second half. They allowed only 21 Mustang points in the third and fourth quarters, and did a nice job contesting every shot. They minimized the Mustangs' transition points, and limited the Mustangs trip to the free throw line. “I was really proud of the whole team effort on defense,” Smith said. “We just needed a gut check in the second half, we needed to hustle a little more and not get beat down the floor. We did a better job in the second half.” In the third quarter the Ponies outscored the Mustangs 21-9. Logan Connor and Anfernee Standing Rock both scored eight points to lead the way, helping build a somewhat more comfortable lead at 46-39 heading into the fourth quarter. In the fourth quarter, the Pony defense stood strong. The offense went scoreless for the first three minutes, but the defense held the Mustangs to just two points in the same time frame. And though the Ponies scored only nine points in the entire fourth quarter, the defense held the Mustangs to just 12, locking down the four point victory. “I thought that w-s the difference in the game,” Smith said. “Our defense came through.” Thane Gray is consistently one of the Ponies' leading scores, but having to sit out a game, the Pony offense was left with large hole to fill. Connor too is a Pony standout, but on Tuesday night he really stepped up. He led the team with 20 points, and went 4-of-6 from behind the 3-point arc. “I just tried to find the opening and knock down the shot when I could,” Connor said. “When we were in Malta I got a couple open looks, but I didn’t knock them down. Tonight I knew they were going to play off of me, and I knocked them down.” Standing Rock also had a good night, finishing the game with 16 points. C.J. Evans added nine, while Brandon Smith added five Drew Kafka added three and Kade Barsotti added two. Overall the Ponies improved to 5-5, and now prepare for two conference matchups this weekend. On Friday they will travel to Livingston to face the Rangers, and on Saturday the Ponies will travel to Belgrade to take on the Panthers.
Blue Ponies tame Mustangs
Published: Wednesday, January 20th, 2010
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