By Alan Sorensen
The Havre High School Blue Ponies host the Chinook Lady Sugarbeeters in their final home basketball game of the season Thursday. On Friday, the Ponies invade the C.M. Russell Fieldhouse for a 4 p.m. matinee against the Lady Rustlers.
Tip off between the Hi-Line neighbors Thursday is slated for 7:30 p.m., following the match up between the schools' freshman at 4:15 p.m. and the junior varsity squads.
Havre Head Coach Dennis Murphy said that anything can happen in a traditional rivalry like the one that has built up between the two Hi-Line schools over the years. The Ponies enter the game with a record of 10 wins and six losses.
"It's our final home game; it's senior night," Murphy said. "You're hoping going into this that your seniors have a good outing for their last time playing at home in front of their hometown crowd."
Murphy said that Thursday's match up is complicated because a lot has happened since the two teams squared off at the start of the season.
"We played them so long ago, it's kind of hard to even remember them," Murphy said. "I kind of expect them to come into our place and throw a variety of defenses against us. I think they're looking toward their tournament and working on a lot of things, so I expect to see a variety."
Murphy isn't looking past Chinook and thinks that he and his team are prepared for any eventuality.
"Because of that (variety), we're going to have to be able to adjust, recognize and adjust to what they are trying to do to us."
The seniors who will be introduced and see plenty of playing time Thursday are Samantha Velk, Nikki Baltrusch, Breyon Briese, Alyssa Matter and LaShae Michels. The team also has two senior managers: Brandy Thomas and Lindsey Schmidt.
Murphy said he wasn't sure what fans should expect Thursday.
"The first time we played awfully well and they didn't play very well," he said. "Anytime you have the traditional rivalry we have , you never know what to expect. They were young when we played them and they have got the season under the belts now."
Murphy said he had checked the Lady 'Beeters schedule and the numbers they put up as the year progressed.
"It's obvious that they've improved," he said. "Hopefully, we've improved, also. We'll play the game and find out."
The Ponies enter a hostile environment at Russell Friday and are prepared for a physical game from the Rustlers.
"CMR is a very physical team," Murphy said, "probably one of the more physical teams we'll face all year. When you don't play against that style very often, it can sure disrupt your offensive game."
Murphy said the Ponies can expect a game that's in doubt down to the final buzzer.
"The first time we played them, the final score was 38 to 31 in overtime, so you know it's going down to the wire," he said. "We play them there in an afternoon contest, 4 o'clock, which is out of the ordinary. We're going to have to be prepared physically and mentally for the type of game they're going to present to us."
Murphy said that Russell is a young team that has improved during the year and that it's won-loss record doesn't tell the whole story.
"They're a lot like Chinook," Murphy said. "I thought at the first of the year they were inexperienced, but they're competitive in AA. They have a losing record, but they've been in a lot of games.
"Their size and their athletic ability are a concern of mine, but I think our full-court pressure will negate some of that. They will have to contend with our quickness and our pressure."
The Ponies travel to Anaconda next week for the Class A Central Division Tournament scheduled for Nov. 9-11.