By Kim Staudinger
The long weekend for the Havre High boys basketball team had a dramatic finish as the Ponies defeated the Malta Mustangs in the final 20 seconds of overtime.
After a 65-52 win at Chinook Thursday and a 106-59 loss at Browning Friday, spectators may have expected the Ponies to be exhausted for Saturday's home game against Malta.
Though the Ponies (3-6) got off to a slow start, they rebounded well for the 60-58 finish.
Senior Titus Pedraza, who has battled an injury, led the inside attack for Havre and made the winning shot for the Ponies with 20 seconds left in overtime. Pedraza nearly had the ball stolen away by a Malta defender, but held on for the eventual game-winning basket.
Malta called a timeout with 13 seconds remaining to set up a potential game-tying shot. Malta was able to get the ball to the post players underneath the basket, but missed three straight shots. The Mustangs had one last shot opportunity and missed as time expired.
But the Havre crowd's celebration was quickly halted as Ryan Lusin picked up his fifth foul on the shot, which sent junior Seth Taylor to the line with a chance to tie the game. Taylor missed his first of two free throws, giving the Ponies their second win of the weekend.
"We got two good wins this weekend," Havre head coach Mark West said. "I am real proud of the kids. They did a great job. It was nice to see Titus come back strong from his injury. He did a nice job underneath down the stretch for us."
Havre gave Malta many chances to win the ballgame, missing key free throws late in the game and also giving the Mustangs second-chance baskets. Luckily for the Ponies, Malta was making the same mistakes.
"They could have won the game at the line themselves," West said. "They made similar mistakes to the ones we were down the stretch. We missed free throws, didn't rebound and made some crucial errors, but hopefully we learned from those mistakes. It's nice to win and learn that lesson instead of losing and having to learn it."
Havre shot only 36.8 percent from the free-throw line for the game, while Malta shot 58 percent.
Havre got behind early, down 20-14 after the first quarter and 36-26 at the half, but the Ponies' defense held the Mustangs to just five points in the third quarter, allowing Havre to make a comeback.
"We got a little momentum going and got ourselves going," West said. "We came out strong in the second half."
Pedraza, who scored eight of Havre's 14 first-quarter points, picked up the pace again in the fourth, scoring eight more points to send the game into overtime. Pedraza led all scorers with 22 points.
Havre picked up its first lead since early in the game with 5:31 remaining in regulation play. Senior Mike Frey cut the Malta lead to one and after a Mustang turnover, Frey scored with a hook shot to give the Ponies a 43-42 lead. The teams exchanged the lead five times before overtime.
Steve Heberly and Trent Normandy handled the Malta pressure well, getting the ball up the court quickly and making sharp passes to the post players inside.
"Trent and Steve both have responded real well," West said. "They kept their composure and played very well for us this weekend."
Lusin was the only other Havre player in double figures with 13 points. Malta had four players who scored in double digits, led by Jeremy Brenden with 18 and Taylor, Steven Green and Mark Slade each with 12.
In Browning on Friday, the Ponies were able to keep the game within reach through the first half of play, but fell to the defending state A champions 106-59. Mike Chavez led the Indians with 37 points. Leo Bullchild added 21 points and Alvin YellowOwl had 17. Cory Brothers, Ryan Lusin and Titus Pedraza each had 11 points for the Ponies.
"For the first half in Browning, we tried to be real patient," West said. "We were able to go inside and score. We played real well together in the first half." West also said he rested most of his starters in the fourth quarter at Browning to keep them fresh for Saturday's game.