By Kim Staudinger
Coach Dennis Murphy's Blue Pony girls basketball team heads into this weekend's Central A Tip-off Tournament in Livingston expecting to come away with two victories.
The last time the girls team suffered a loss at the tip-off tournament was three years ago. In fact, in the last 22 games (11 years) at the opening tournament, the Ponies have lost only four times.
The Ponies open up competition with the Dillon Beavers on Friday at 3:30 p.m. The Beavers return only two players with any varsity experience this year in Kaycee Tash and Kelly Godecke. But with the addition of veteran head coach Bernie Wasser, the Beavers should still be a very tough team.
"I'm glad Bernie's there," Murphy said. "He's done a great job at Malta, he's a proven quality coach, and he's a great addition to the Dillon team."
Usually when a team hires a new coach, opposing teams are left to question exactly what strategies the coach will use. But Murphy says he does not see that as a problem with Wasser.
"I have coached against Bernie for so long, I kind of know how he will be and the things he will do," Murphy said.
In the second game on Saturday, the Ponies will face the Butte Central Maroons. Game time is set for 10:30 a.m.
Butte Central also has another new coach coming in. But, Murphy says the Maroons have a very good player who can score 25 points per game, if she is healthy.
"I think they have the second best player in the conference in (Lindsay) Thatcher," he said. "But, she is coming off a knee injury and I do not know how much she will play, or if she even will."
Murphy says he has many goals for this weekend, including seeing his players play to the ability he knows they can.
"Always to start the season, you want your team to perform the things you have worked on in practice," he said. "I want us to be able to run the floor and run the break like we are capable. We have good speed with our post players and I would like to see them score some points in transition."
Murphy says his team has a few things he hopes will improve this weekend after the team plays in its first two nonscrimmage games.
"My kids have to become better half-court defensive players and put more pressure on the ball in the halfcourt," he said. "My team is made up of good overall size, and we have to take advantage of that."
The size the Ponies have this year should also take some pressure off the guards to score points as they have had to in the past.
"Once we can establish our inside play, we can focus more on our perimeter shooting," he said.