By Tiffany L. Rehbein
The Central A Havre Blue Ponies, in classic cross-county action, are looking to play strong basketball to overpower the senior-laden District 2-B Chinook Sugarbeeters Thursday at Chinook.
"They've got a veteran team," Havre head coach Dennis Murphy said about Chinook. "This should be one of the better teams than they've had in the last two years."
Chinook starts four seniors in Adam Gibson, transfer Troy Omsberg, Mason Roseberry, and Tyler Oehmke.
"We will have to play our best basketball that we have played this season to play with Chinook," Murphy said.
Last January, the Sugarbeeters handed the Ponies a 60-56 loss.
"They beat us late in the season last year when that team was all juniors," Murphy said.
The Ponies (1-1) will look to keep the tempo fast throughout the game behind the forces of seniors Ricky Brown and Nate Baltrusch.
Brown led the offensive effort last weekend for the Ponies, scoring 25 and 20 points, respectively, at the Central A Tip-off Tournament.
Baltrusch scored 18 points in the 75-66 win over the Anaconda Copperheads last weekend.
Inside, 6-foot-3 senior Landen Grant, and 6-foot-4 senior Cliff Cooper will look to play strong.
Grant notched 14 points in the 76-62 loss to the Dillon Beavers to open the season.
Jesse Suek and Nick Crawford also bring some height inside. Both stand at 6-foot-3 for Havre.
Senior Chris Young, juniors Ryan Fink and Scott Rice, and sophomore Danny Wirtzberger add some depth for Havre.
Wirtzberger and Rice each stepped into action and filled an important role last weekend at Butte.
The Sugarbeeters (0-1 conference, 0-2 overall) dropped two tough contests to two top Class B teams in opening-weekend action.
"Defense," said first-year head coach Glenn Smith, "I think that will be the big key for us to beat Havre."
Chinook gave up 62 and 81 points, respectively, last weekend.
"We gave up way too many points last weekend," Smith said. "Havre is a well-balanced team and they go about nine-deep. They have great quickness, size inside, and they are a 3-point threat outside."
At Chinook Friday, the District 2-B Wolf Point Wolves used an up-tempo running game to defeat the 'Beeters 62-49. Saturday, the Cut Bank Wolves handed Chinook an 81-71 loss in non-conference action.
Chinook junior Kallid Jaha, the only non-senior starter, hit double figures both nights, scoring 12 and 19 points, respectively.
Gibson also tallied double digits during the weekend, scoring 14 and 15 points, respectively.
Omsberg, junior Scott Fritz, playing strong inside, and Roseberry also notched double figures for the 'Beeters during the weekend.
Omsberg and Roseberry each pose threats on the perimeter for Chinook. Omsberg popped two 3-pointers in the game Saturday.
"We're going to run," Smith said. "That is our game plan early in the year, but we need to keep the turnovers down with that. It could be a quick game."
Both teams boast seven players on the varsity squad.
"We are trying to build a tradition here," Smith said. "That takes a change of attitude -- a change to thinking you can win.
"I just hope that we play a really good game," he continued. "I know we want to beat them, and they want to beat us."
Freshman tip-off is slated for 4:15 at the Chinook High School gymnasium, with games running until the varsity game that begins at 7:30 p.m.