The young Havre High boys basketball team has already taken a lot of big steps forward over the last several weeks of practice, but this weekend, the Blue Ponies will get their first true tests of the season.
In their season-opening weekend, the Central A Ponies will face two non-conference opponents, one on the road, and one at home. Tonight, the Ponies are in Malta to take on the defending Class B state champion Malta Mustangs. But on Saturday, the Ponies will return to Havre to face the Class AA CMR Rustlers at the Havre High gymnasium at 5 p.m.
Having such a young and inexperienced team, first-year head coach Curt Leeds knows this is a very tough opening weekend. But still trying to work out the wrinkles, and get things rolling in the right direction, the Ponies’ game plan won’t alter much, or at all, from one opponent to the other.
“We are focused on our team identity,” Leeds said. “We need to figure out our player’s roles on the team, and we know that this season is going to be a learning process. We are mainly focused on ourselves, but this is going to be a great weekend for us, and a great learning experience for our kids.”
The Rustlers always house a tough team, but this year, Joey Marzion, one of the state’s best shooting guards, will lead CMR. Last season, Marzion averaged more than 15 points per game. And for Malta, Kendall Denham, arguably the best point guard in the state, at any level will lead the way. The Mustangs also house tough players in Tucker Schy
e and Zach Handley.
Thurman Holdsclaw and Kade Rismon are the only returning starters from the Pony varsity team a season ago. They will need to play well this weekend on both ends of the floor, while other Blue Ponies like Ramsey Drew, Spencer Ross, Kody Hickman, Brian Smith, Jase Kato and freshman Dane Warp get more comfortable in game situations.
On offense, the Ponies want to push the ball up the floor and work from the inside out this weekend. If the layup isn’t there, or if Rismon doesn’t have the position inside, then they will look to kick the ball out and run the motion offense. They can’t get caught in a shootout, and they have to take care of the ball.
“We want to push the ball up the floor and look for layups first,” Leeds said. “Or we want to work the ball around and try and find the best available shot. Our goal is to control the ball and control the game speed and tempo.”
Defensively, the Ponies will also look to control things with a well executed press. That will be especially key when facing Malta and Denham.
“We aren’t going to run the full-court press to get steals,” Leeds said. “But more to slow teams down. Denham is one of the best point guards in the state and we want to limit him and make other kids beat us.”
Both opponents the Ponies are going to face this weekend are going to be extremely tough teams to beat. Both are stacked with talent and always execute very well on both ends of the floor. For the Ponies to be successful the next two days, as well as the rest of the season, it is like Leeds says, the Ponies have to focus on themselves and their strengths.
Tonight the Ponies face the Mustangs in Malta, while the HHS return home on Saturday to face the Rustlers at 5 p.m. at the Havre High gymnasium.