The Havre High boys basketball team is nearing the midway point of the season. And after three consecutive losses, including two last weekend, a win or two this weekend would be a big boost in getting back on track.
Sitting at 2-4 overall and 1-1 in the Central A, the Blue Ponies will play two more games this weekend. A win is needed to stop the downward slide, and the Ponies will first get that chance tonight when they will host the Class B Conrad Cowboys at the Havre High Gymnasium in Havre. Saturday, the Ponies will take to the road where they will face the conference rival Lewistown Golden Eagles for the first time this season.
Defense has been the main concern for the Ponies as of late, and both the Cowboys and Eagles have talented scorers that will try to expose the Ponies’ zone look.
“We have spent quite a bit of time nitpicking things in our defense that we can fix and change to make ourselves more successful,” Havre High head coach Curt Leeds said. “We have talked about things like block-out angles so we can get more solid there. We also talked about our passing angles so teams can’t easily reverse the ball or enter it into the high post. If we can execute our zone defense then we are very capable of getting wins. We have length with Dane (Warp) at the top of the zone and then with Kade (Risomon), Jase (Kato), and sometimes Michael (Bakke) down low. We can cover a lot of ground.”
Shane Larson has been very dependable for the Cowboys this season, including a 19-point game last weekend against Cut Bank. Larson is averaging almost 18 per game. But facing the Eagles in Lewistown, the Ponies will be more concerned with the likes of Morgan Ray, Logan Wilcox and Dylan Stenseth. Stenseth and Wilcox both came out of the gate on fire this season. In Lewistown’s first four games of the year, Stenseth averaged more than 15-points per game, while in the same span Wilcox averaged slightly more with 17-points per game.
Limiting offensive production by the opposition will be crucial. In the Ponies two wins this season they haven’t allowed more than 38 points. But in all four losses the Ponies have allowed more than 60-points. CMR scored 67, Belgrade scored 65, Great Falls High scored 62, and Malta scored 66.
But being able to score will be just as important for the Ponies.
In the loss to Malta, the Ponies got their most even game of the season, where Nate Rismon, Dane Warp, Brian Smith, Jase Kato and Kade Rismon all scored at least six points. Two games ago, just three HHS individuals recorded points. But Warp is averaging almost 25-points per game, and next in line is Kade Rismon with 10 per game. Kato and Nate Rismon are also averaging less than five per game. But if the Ponies are going to win games, Warp has to continue to play well, while the rest of the lineup continues to step up. An increase in production from Jon Faber will also give the Blue Ponies more firepower and depth, hopefully leading to a win over Conrad, more importantly, a win over the conference rival Eagles.
“We are still focused on what we do because the same things that beat us come up in every game,” Leeds said. “But the Eagle only have two leading scorers on their team, and last year they struggled with pressure, so we will treat them like we did Livingston. Those teams struggle with pressure, so we will make them prove that they can handle it. But our goal in every game is give up 40 points or less. If we can do that we can be very successful, but if we give up 60 or more, that will be tough because we only average 45 ourselves.”
Good defense and even offense by the Ponies could mean a couple of wins, just what they need to get back on track.
Tonight’s game between Havre and Conrad tips off at 7 in the Havre High gymnasium. Havre’s game at Lewistown Saturday will tip at 6 p.m.