By Kim Staudinger
CHINOOK The Havre Blue Ponies started strong and never looked back Thursday night in their 54-32 win over Chinook.
Senior Jeri Matter, who had a game-high 20 points, scored eight of them in the first quarter to guide Havre, but Chinook stayed tight and only trailed by seven.
Chinook scored the first basket of the second quarter, but the Ponies took control, going on a 16-2 run which lasted nearly six minutes. Havre guard Julie Wagner hit two consecutive three-point shots from the right side of the court, putting the Havre lead to double digits.
Chinook Senior Kelsie Whitney ended the rally with a left-handed layup with 53 seconds remaining in the half. Neither team scored for the last seconds, giving Havre a 30-13 lead headed into the locker room.
"For it to be 30-13 at the half, we must have been doing something good," Havre coach Dennis Murphy said. "We executed well offensively and had some easy shots. Jeri had a great start. She practiced real well all week and it showed tonight."
The 'Beeters opened up the second half with a 7-2 run, cutting the Havre lead to 12. Whitney, who had 12 points for the game, hit a three-point basket to start the run. She also added two free throws and a field goal, accounting for all of Chinook's seven points in the two-minute span.
Jen Baird hit a long three-point shot, followed by a last-second shot by Brittany Buhman to end the third with only a 12-point deficit for Chinook.
Despite scoring runs in the fourth quarter for the 'Beeters, Chinook was never able to cut the gap any closer than 12 points.
"They battled their tails back into it," Murphy said. "They got it down to 43-31 at one time. But then we call a timeout and go on a 17-1 run. We were kind of hoping for that kind of run coming out of the half."
Although the Ponies played well and executed the offense to perfection, Chinook was never really out of the ballgame. But Havre's press caused problems at times for the 'Beeters, and Chinook also missed numerous scoring opportunities off of defensive miscues by the Ponies.
"We gave up some easy shots," Murphy said. "We were just lucky they didn't go in. If they make those, it becomes a heck of a lot different."
Turnovers also hurt Chinook with 23 in the game, compared with only 12 for Havre. The 'Beeters made 7 of 12 free throws, while the Ponies shot 7-for-13 from the line.
Even though a win counts no matter how ugly the game, Murphy said, "We'll take it, but we've got to play better tomorrow."
Matter led all scorers with 20 points on the game, followed by Jayla McPherson with 11 and Wagner with eight.
Havre Katie Miller 2, Julie Wagner 8, Katie Malsam 4, Carrie Flatau 5, Sara Suek 2, Jeri Matter 20, Amy Ranes 2, Jayla McPherson 11.
Chinook Kelsie Whitney 12, Jen Baird 3, Whitney Lybeck 4, Kelly Acra 6, Brittany Buhmann 4, Kelsey Crampton 3.