By Kim Staudinger
The Havre girls basketball team had hopes of redeeming itself Saturday night against Great Falls High after falling Thursday in a near comeback against Lewistown. Instead, the Ponies suffered their largest margin of defeat in head coach Dennis Murphy's years in Havre, losing 80-44.
Both teams struggled early, mixing turnovers, bad passes and missed second chance baskets. While Great Falls High seemed to break out of its lethargic start, the Ponies, who were tied at eight with 1:09 left in the first quarter, struggled until the final buzzer sounded.
As a team, Havre shot 24 percent from the field for the game, and a meager 19 percent in the second half.
Great Falls led by 12 at the half, but increased its lead in the third as Havre could only muster five points. The Ponies were unable to handle the full-court pressure employed by the Bison to start the third and found themselves in a 33-point hole with one quarter of play remaining. The Bison, led by Megan Schmitz's nine third-quarter points, scored 26 points during the eight-minute span.
"Anytime you lose two games by a combined 47 points, something needs to change," assistant coach Sam Dierman said.
Megan Schmitz, and sister Michela, combined for 36 points in the game 22 in the second half.
The Bison manufactured 11 unanswered points at the inception of the third quarter, a scoring spree punctured when Havre's Jeri Matter sunk a free throw at the 5:27 mark. A minute and a half later, Alysia Kato added another free throw to sever a 5-0 Great Falls run.
The Bison continued to dominate, scoring seven uncontested points over next three minutes. Kato once again stymied the scoring binge with an isolated free throw with 1:17 remaining in the third. After Great Falls matched Kato's free throw, the senior small forward collected two of her seven points on the next possession with a field goal. However, the damage was already inflicted, as the Bison held a smug 60-27 lead.
"The Bison are a good ballclub," Dierman said. "But we made them look awful good."
Though Great Falls head coach Chris Lander, who brought only nine players on the road trip, played most of her starters in the fourth, the Ponies netted a respectable 17 points to the Bison's 20. Senior guard Katie Malsam contributed six of the 17 points, including two three-pointers.
Great Falls did not miss a three-point shot in the second half, and shot 50 percent from three-point range for the game.
Senior center Jayla McPherson was the lone Pony to score in double figures with 12, and Kato followed with seven.
The Bison had four girls score in double figures, led by Michela Schmitz's game-high 24 points, Megan Schmitz and Ashley Thatcher (12 points apiece) and Megan Schwantes (10).
Great Falls High
Great Falls High Rachael Wilford 6, Michela Schmitz 24, Megan Schmitz 12, Liz Marsik 4, Ashley Thatcher 12, Megan Schwantes 10, Heather Vance 6, Katherine Sunwall 6.
Havre Katie Miller 2, Katie Malsam 6, Carrie Flatau 4, Sara Suek 4, Alysia Kato 7, Jeri Matter 5, Amy Ranes 4, Jayla McPherson 12.