By Tiffany L. Rehbein
It was a game that demanded goalie gear for protection.
In a physical matchup, C.M. Russell senior Kayci Kottke hit a bucket with :06 left in the game to lift the Eastern AA Rustlers to a 44-42 victory over the Central A-leading Havre Blue Ponies in non-conference action at the Blue Pony Corral Thursday. It was the first and only home loss this season for Havre.
CMR senior Mary Lester blocked a Blue Pony shot attempt underneath and fed Kottke for the game-winning basket. Kottke had nine points in the contest, while Lester was held to just four in the game.
It was only the second lead of the game for CMR, who scored first on free throws by Lester with only 10 seconds off the clock in the first quarter.
Havre junior Alyssa Matter fed cousin Jeri Matter who nailed the first Blue Pony points of the game on an 18-foot jumper little more than 20 seconds into the game.
Jeri Matter tallied nine points in the contest, including seven in the first quarter leading Havre to an explosive 18-point first quarter.
Senior Erin Patera opened the second quarter with a basket to lift the Ponies 20-12 with 7:35 remaining in the half. Patera finished the game with five points.
Junior Sam Velk came off the bench for Havre and notched her only two points of the game, and Alyssa Matter sunk two free throws to give the Ponies a 12-point lead more than mid-way through the second quarter.
Havre held CMR scoreless for more than five minutes in the second, until Nikki Alexander came off the bench and scored, bringing the Rustlers within 10 points at 24-14 with 3:14 remaining.
Alyssa Matter hit a basket with :01 left in the half to quiet a six-point CMR run, that gave the Ponies a 28-20 halftime lead. Matter had a team-high 11 points in the game, including one 3-pointer in the second half, and went 4-for-4 from the free throw line in the effort.
As a team, the Blue Ponies went 6-for-8 from the foul line in the contest. Neither team made a 3-point shot in the first half.
I think we started out very well, head coach Dennis Murphy said. We got a chance to play in the first half. The second half was too physical, and we werent a strong enough team to play.
Havre was outscored 24-14 in the second half. During the course of two games, the Blue Ponies have tallied just eight fourth-quarter points. Against CMR, the Ponies notched five. Last week at Malta, Havre tallied just three in the final quarter.
Senior Tiffany Shrauger nailed a 3-pointer with 4:58 remaining in the game and Shrauger hit Alyssa Matter in stride with 2:21 remaining for the only fourth-quarter points.
Shrauger finished with nine points in the game.
Up by three points heading into the fourth quarter, CMRs Hillary Taylor scored off an offensive rebound to bring the Rustlers within one point. Shrauger hit the three and Kottke answered, and Alyssa Matter hit a bucket to which Rustler Alexander answered.
With less than one minute remaining, Lester scored and knotted up the game at 42-42, and she went on to block the Havre shot en route to the game-winning basket.
They did block a lot of shots, Murphy said. Their three-two zone is good. We didnt play as well as we needed to play.
During the past three years, Havre has put together a 29-3 home record.
In 1998, CMR handed the Blue Ponies a 57-55 end-of-the-season loss at home, their first and only home loss of the season.
In 1997, the Central A Dillon Beavers downed Havre 72-59 in the divisional title game. However, that same year, the Havre Blue Ponies went on to down Dillon and become the state Class A champions.
The top-ranked Central A Blue Ponies (13-5) will enter the divisional tournament in the first seed Thursday at Lewistown.
Havre Samantha Velk, 1 0-0 2; Nikki Baltrusch, 3 0-0 6; Breyon Briese, 0 0-0 0; Lashae Michels, 0 0-0 0; Tiffany Shrauger, 3 0-0 9; Alyssa Matter, 2 4-4 11; Erin Patera, 2 2-1 5; Jeri Matter, 4 2-1 9; Totals: 15 8-6 42
CMR Mary Lester, 2 4-2 6; Jana Walsh, 0 0-0 0; Nichole Neill, 1 1-1 10; Kodi Kuka, 0 0-0 0; Kayci Kottke, 3 0-0 9; Lindsey Graham, 1 0-0 2; Erin Dunham, 0 0-0 0; Hillary Taylor, 6 0-0 12; Shandi Keller, 0 0-0 0; Nikki Alexander, 2 2-1 5; Totals: 17 7-4 44.
3-points Neill, Kottke, Shrauger, Alyssa Matter.