Havre sweeps Lady Indians, defeats Malta
By Kim Staudinger
After suffering disappointing losses to Lewistown and Great Falls High and enduring sprint-filled practices this week, the Havre Blue Ponies snapped out of their rut with two key wins over undefeated Browning and Class B foe Malta this weekend.
Havre coach Dennis Murphy shook up his starting lineup for the weekend games, starting one sophomore, two juniors and two seniors.
Sophomore Rylee O'Connell was brought up from the junior varsity team to start at the point guard position and juniors Carrie Flatau and Sara Suek also got the starting nod along with Amy Ranes and Jayla McPherson.
"We started a better defensive team," Murphy said. "We need to play a better defensive team to start with and obviously it worked."
The Ponies defeated the Browning Lady Indians (6-1) Friday night 58-53 and the Malta M-Ettes (4-3) 47-37 on Saturday.
"Coming off an embarrassing loss to the Bison a week ago and to come back and respond like that is huge no matter who it is," Murphy said. "But beating Browning, who is on a roll, is a bonus."
Both teams had chances to win at different times throughout the game, but neither was able to seal the deal.
The teams battled it out in the fourth quarter with the lead changing hands three times in less than one minute of play. Alysia Kato was instrumental in the Pony fourth, coming off the bench and scoring eight points in just over two minutes. Kato's last basket came at the 4:23 mark, giving the Ponies a five-point lead.
"The group out there was working so well," Kato said. "We got behind and started to come back. All of us knew we could win if we kept going hard."
Kato said the win brought the team together, a problem the Ponies have had this season.
"The win feels good," she said. "It was Browning's first loss and it's nice bacause no one thought we could really do that."
Browning's leading scorer, Laura Jo Kipp (11 points) spent most of the game on the bench with foul trouble and fouled out with 3:45 to go in the game, giving the Ponies all the momentum they would need.
Havre tried stalling by running a four-corners type offense, but was never able to take much time off the clock as Browning decided to foul, forcing Havre to the free-throw line. Havre missed 12 of 23 at the line, allowing Browning to remain in the game.
"Part of (stalling) was to take time off the clock," Murphy said. "We wanted to play keep-away and the object of keep-away is not to let your opponents catch you. They were catching us, which was OK because they were putting us at the line."
Browning hit a key three-point shot with only 29 seconds left in the game, cutting Havre's lead to four.
The Indians were once again forced to foul, sending Julie Wagner to the line. She made one of two, sealing Havre's 58-53 win. The Indians attempted two more three-pointers but missed both.
The Ponies led by five after one quarter, but were outscored 20-9 in the second, giving Browning a 31-25 halftime lead.
Havre failed to slow Browning's run-and-gun style of play, committing 23 turnovers in the first half.
"We went bonkers when they went bonkers," Murphy said. "We let them dictate what we wanted to do in the first half, at times."
The Ponies failed to score for nearly the first three minutes of the third quarter, allowing Browning to increase its lead to 13. Havre fought back and cut the lead to two after a last-second shot by Jeri Matter. Matter led all scorers with 15 points.
Browning shot 24 percent from the field and only 19 percent in the second half, while the Ponies shot 48 percent in the second half and 42 percent for the game.
Havre also out-rebounded the Indians 51-37, including 34 defensive boards. McPherson led the Ponies with 10 total rebounds and added 10 points.
Havre traveled to Malta on Saturday to take on the M-Ettes. The girls found themselves down by nine early in the game, but held Malta scoreless for nearly seven minutes, giving Havre the 29-26 halftime lead.
Malta continued to struggle with shooting in the second half, scoring its first two points with only two seconds left in the third quarter a scoreless span totaling 12 minutes and 15 seconds.
Malta finished the game shooting only 10.3 percent for the second half, 3-for-29 and 12-for-50 overall.
McPherson led the Ponies with 20 points, and Ranes finished with 10. Katie Malsam added six, Wagner five, Kato four and O'Connell had two.