By Tiffany L. Rehbein
Two weeks ago, the Havre Blue Ponies boys' basketball team was struggling with a losing record and slipping to the bottom of the Central A.
Today, they are 8-6, coming off a 68-61 non-conference victory over Class AA Great Falls Bison at the Bison Fieldhouse on Saturday.
"I think that we came out and defended pretty well against them," Havre head coach Dennis Murphy said. The Bison shot 34 percent from the field in the game, and just 23 percent in the first half.
The Ponies took command from the start, scoring first, and relinquishing the lead just once, a 24-22 Bison surge in the second quarter. From there it was all Ponies.
"We had a really good start," Murphy said. "The kids came out ready to play."
Nate Baltrusch scored a team-high 18 points to lead Havre, while Scott Rice and Landen Grant chipped in 14 apiece. Ricky Brown added 10.
But it was free throws that sealed the game for Havre. The Blue Ponies went to the foul line 41 times (they attempted 49 field goals) in the win.
Havre went 25-for-41, led by Grant who went 6-of-6 in the game. Baltrusch hit 7-of-10 and Brown went 4-for-6 from the foul line.
The Ponies outscored the Bison 25-16 from the stripe, and shot 21 free shots in the fourth quarter alone.
The physical game, called tightly by the referees, led to 28 Bison fouls and 22 Blue Pony fouls. Because of the foul situation, which saw Baltrusch on the bench for more than half of the second quarter, each team turned to its bench.
"Our bench responded very well," Murphy said. "Our kids came in and held their own."
Great Falls' Bo Scott, in his second start since recovering from a wrist injury, scored a game-high 24 points for the Bison. Elias Stump scored 13, all in the second half before fouling out, and Andrew Campbell chipped in 11 for Great Falls. The Bison slipped to 4-8 overall with the loss.
"Scott Rice and Ryan Fink did a great job defending Bo Scott in the game, especially in the second half," Murphy said. Scott managed just three deep 3-pointers in the second half.
Noah Thatcher, who had been leading the Bison offensively without Scott (averaging more than 10 points per game), scored just two points which came in the second half.
Defensively, Baltrusch, Brown, and Grant grabbed six rebounds apiece for Havre. The Bison outrebounded the Blue Ponies 42-33 in the game and were led by Joey Cornell with 11.
Havre will host the Browning Indians in conference action Thursday, and they will travel to Malta Saturday for a non-conference game.
Great Falls High
Havre -- Nate Baltrusch 5-10 7-10 18; Ricky Brown 2-13 4-6 10; Landen Grant 4-9 6-6 14; Jesse Suek 0-1 2-4 2; Scott Rice 5-8 4-10 14; Nick Crawford 2-3 0-0 4; Cliff Cooper 2-3 2-5 6; Ryan Fink 0-1 0-0 0; Dan Wirtzberger 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 20-48 25-41.
Great Falls -- Noah Thatcher 1-12 0-0 2; Bo Scott 7-16 7-10 24; Joey Cornell 1-3 1-4 3; Joey Cornell 1-3 1-4 3; Elias Stump 5-9 2-2 13; Jason Rosell 0-0 0-0 0; Andrew Campbell 3-3 5-8 11; Brian Lynch 1-5 0-1 3; Tagan LaFountain 0-3 0-0 0; Jerry McNamee 2-6 1-2 5. Totals: 20-57 16-27.
Total fouls: Havre 22, Great Falls 22. Fouled out: Stump, Lynch.
Three-pointers: Havre 3 (Baltrusch, Brown 2); Great Falls 5 (Lynch, Stump, Scott 3).
Rebounds: Havre 38 (Grant 8, Brown 7, Baltrusch 6, Cooper 6); Great Falls 45 (Cornell 14, McNamee 8, Campbell 7).
Turnovers: Havre 14, Great Falls 16.