By Tiffany L. Rehbein
It's an old program under a new coach and a new system.
Well, almost. Dennis Murphy, the head Havre Blue Pony girls' basketball coach for 10 years, has taken over the helm of the boys' program. Murphy was the boys' freshman coach previously.
"New" coach might be an understatement for Murphy, who was recently named the Central A's coach of the year in girls' basketball.
The expectation for the boys' program: Play the game to win.
"I would like to improve every week we are out there," Murphy said. "At divisional time, regardless of our record, I would like to know that we've played the best we could play."
The Ponies, who finished 13-12 last season, were knocked out of the State A tournament Saturday morning.
Only four players return from last year's team, and seven of 10 are seniors on the varsity roster.
Seniors Nate Baltrusch, Ricky Brown, Landen Grant, and Cliff Cooper return from last season.
Team speed and quickness, with Baltrusch, Brown, and sophomore Danny Wirtzberger up front, and coachability of the team are strengths, Murphy said.
"Throughout the game, we'll be looking for the things we're working on in practice, and, hopefully, we will execute those things," Murphy said.
Lost from last season's team are Matt Kegal, Steve Keller, and Jeramie Robinson. However, seniors Chris Young, 6-foot-3 Nick Crawford, and 6-foot-3 Jesse Suek have stepped into veteran leadership roles.
Juniors Ryan Fink and Scott Rice round out the varsity roster for the Blue Ponies.
Brown, an honorable mention all-conference selection last season, will be a threat for the Ponies from 3-point land this season, while Grant, who has put in some time in the off-season, both look to be strong in the early-season.
The Ponies, who held a blue/white scrimmage last Friday, had their first opportunity for a live-game situation.
"The best thing was that it was nice to be able to get up and down the floor and see the things we really need to work on," Murphy said. Some of those things include passing, man-to-man defense, rebounding, and motion offense.
While the Ponies' quickness warrants a fast break offense with ease, the Ponies' half-court offense was shaky at the scrimmage.
"Overall, I thought the kids put out a pretty good effort," Murphy said.
The Ponies travel to Butte to play at the Central A Tip-Off Tournament. Friday, Havre will face the Dillon Beavers at 8 p.m.
The Beavers, the defending State A champion with a 22-2 record, lost a passel of seniors from last year's team, but return senior guard Shane Sutherland and 6-foot guard Tyler Thomas.
Saturday at 2 p.m., the Blue Ponies will play the Anaconda Copperheads.
"Anaconda could easily be the best team in the conference," Murphy said.
Michael Estes, Mike Miller, and Jess Edwards are stars to watch on the Copperhead team.
"All I want is one more win," Murphy said. "The next one."