By Kim Staudinger
After losing a close contest to the Fergus Golden Eagles right before the Christmas break, the Havre Blue Ponies were hoping to turn things around in the new year. Now they're going to have to do it with the help of four junior varsity players.
Junior Steve Heberly and sophomore Trent Normandy have been moved up to play on the varsity squad full time this weekend. Two other players also have been moved up from the junior varsity team to play part time. Juniors Justin Jones and Tyler Vincent will play two quarters of varsity basketball and two quarters of junior varsity basketball, Havre head coach Mark West said today.
"It is a lot to ask for those kids to step in and do it," West said. "But I know they are excited and may make a few mistakes, but it will be OK."
Due to disciplinary actions, three Pony seniors have been suspended from play. Two players have been suspended for "10 pupil instruction days, beginning today," West said. Those players will miss four games. The other player has two team rules violations and has been suspended for the year, West said.
West said school Superintendent Kirk Miller asked him not to release the names of the players.
The Ponies (1-5) had many players gone for a baseball camp in Idaho over the break, and with others gone for family vacations, full team practices were rare.
Although his team has not played for a while, West said, he thinks tonight's game against Chinook (2-3) is one of the games on the schedule the Ponies can win.
"They'll be up to playing," he said. "They know the challenges that are there and still are positive to get a win."
Chinook head coach Derek Miller said his team has had five good practices over the Christmas break and that his team "got a lot of things accomplished."
Last year against Havre, the Beeters lost two close games. In the game at Chinook, the Ponies came back from a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit to win by three.
"We've got to start out quick," Miller said. "We would like to come out and get after it right away and jump on them early."
Another key to the game Miller mentioned is limiting turnovers, rebounding and controlling the Ponies' guards.
"We had problems with their guards last year," Miller said. "We turned the ball over a lot. (Cory) Brothers had a couple of good games against us last year. We need to control the boards and don't give them second-chance shots when we miss."
Despite those disadvantages, Miller said his team is bigger in size than Havre, which he feels may give the Beeters an advantage on the inside game.
Expected starters for Chinook are: Jordon Nissen, a 6-foot-2 senior; Micky Haney, a 5-foot-11 senior; Kevin Hansen, a 6-foot-5 senior; Casey Schmitt, a 6-foot junior; and Mike Mereness, a 5-foot-8 junior.
Senior Mike Frey, juniors Heberly and Ryan Lusin, and sophomores Brothers and Normandy are expected to start for Havre.
Senior Titus Pedraza has been battling an injury, but is expected to play this weekend.
The varsity game is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Chinook gym.
Chinook will travel to Glasgow Friday night to take on the Scotties.
Havre will travel to Browning Friday night and will play Malta at home on Saturday.
Browning currently is undefeated at 6-0.
"They are a very, very talented team to say the least," West said. "We are going to try to do some things we've been working on. We will go in with a game plan to run our offense and control the ball and hope some good things happen."
Saturday's game with Malta marks Havre's third game of the weekend. Malta played Lewistown Dec. 14 and won in the final minutes 71-64. The Mustangs also played well against Glasgow on Dec. 22, losing 72-68.
"Malta will be our third game with those kids," West said. "By that time hopefully they'll be over their nerves and playing well together. We need to come in and do a nice job defensively and I think we'll be OK.
"We have some kids who have to step up for this weekend."