By Tiffany L. Rehbein
All they have wanted all year was the next win.
En route to that win, the Havre Blue Ponies boys' basketball team, the No. 2 seed from the Central A, will face the Glendive Red Devils in the opening game of the State Class A tournament.
The tournament will begin Thursday at MetraPark at Billings.
"They are really a good team," Havre head coach Dennis Murphy said the Red Devils. "They don't make a lot of mistakes."
Glendive, the No. 1 seed from the East, brings a 15-6 record into the tournament.
The well-rounded Red Devils bring both size and quickness to the court.
Six-foot-6 Alex Aldinger might pose problems for the Ponies from the key.
Ty Harrison and Josh Schriver are tough on the perimeter for the Red Devils.
The Devils will play both man-to-man and zone defense, with their extended zone being the key on the defensive end.
"They haven't blown a lot of people out, they just kind of play really well and expand their lead as the game goes on," Murphy said.
The Red Devils defeated Miles City 74-67 in semifinal action at the divisional tournament. In the championship game, Glendive defeated Billings Central 63-59 for the No. 1 trophy.
If the Ponies stay close throughout the game, they will have a good chance to win, Murphy said.
"We will need to take advantage of our opportunities," Murphy said. "We are not going to get a lot of opportunities, so we can't come down and take poor shots. We need to take advantage of everything."
The Blue Ponies were handed a 76-42 loss from the Dillon Beavers in the Central A championship game at Belgrade last Saturday.
The Ponies (12-9) defeated the Butte Central Maroons 55-43 in semifinal action to advance to the championship round.
Senior Ricky Brown averaged 14.3 points per game to lead the Ponies. During the regular season, Brown, the Central A's leading scorer entering the divisional tournament, averaged 17.8 points per game.
At the divisional, Brown averaged 2.67 3-point goals per game. During the season, Brown averaged 2.94 to lead the league.
Brown put together his best game in a 21-point effort against Browning in the opening round. He popped four treys in the contest.
However, in the title game, Brown was held to a near-season low eight points against Dillon. He was held to a season-low seven points in a non-conference game against Glasgow on Dec. 18.
Nate Baltrusch and Scott Rice were strong offensively throughout the divisional tournament. Rice averaged 8.3 points per game during the tournament.
He entered the tournament averaging 5.9 points per game.
Baltrusch averaged 8.7 points during the three-game spread at divisional. He scored, on average, 11.0 points during the regular season.
Landen Grant tore down 10 rebounds against Browning to lead the Ponies. He averaged 7.7 boards during the tournament.
During the season, Grant was near the top of the league, averaging 8.2 rebounds per game.
Last year, the Ponies defeated the Red Devils during Friday afternoon action.
However, the state title could go to anyone this season.
The Colstrip Colts enter the tournament as the third seed from the East tied with the best record of any team at the tournament at 20-1.
The Billings Central Rams upset the Colts 74-65 during Friday night semifinal action at the divisional tournament at Laurel.
The Rams boast the worst record of any team at the tournament with a 10-11 mark.
Colstrip will face the Central A's No. 1 team in Dillon. The Beavers are 16-5 entering the state tourney, but are the defending state champion.
Kevin Criswell, Jeff King, and Richard Sanders are strong for the Colts.
Richard Griffin, Shayne Sutherland, and Tyler Thomas can light it up for the Beavers, who are difficult to stop when they get hot on the perimeter.
Billings Central will face the No. 1 seed from the West, Whitefish. The Bulldogs handed the Ronan Chiefs a 56-46 loss in a challenge game on Monday at Kalispell.
Kurt Paulson and Kyle Holbrook, a transfer from Browning, put together good games at the divisional tournament for Whitefish.
Seth Flohr and Josiah Hugs played well during the Rams' defeat over Colstrip.
The No. 1 West team, Stevensville, will face Butte Central from the Central Division. Stevi finished second at the state tournament last season. Stevi is also 20-1 entering the tourney.
Mark Gallik and Neil Collins are strong forwards for Stevensville. Clinton Kauffman and John Seyfert are also tough for the Yellowjackets.
Rob Johnson, Tom Boyle, and Scott Stauninger are strong for the Maroons, who are a physical team inside. They can also shoot the 3-pointer well.
The Blue Pony-Red Devil matchup will kick-off the tournament at 12:30 p.m.