The good news for the Havre High boys basketball team is that the Blue Ponies get to play their next two games at home. The not so good news for the Ponies is that the next two games will also be a challenge.
Riding a two-game winning streak, the Central A Ponies (2-1, 4-4) will need to continue to play well over the next two nights.
Last weekend, the offense was the most balanced it has been all season. That trend may pay dividends as the Ponies face the conference rival Browning Indians tonight and the Class B Rocky Boy Stars Saturday night. Both games will take place at the Havre High gymnasium, and both games should be very high-tempo.
At the pace both the Indians and Stars like to play, if the Ponies can continue to get points from all over the lineup, HHS will better its chances for one, or even a two-win weekend.
“We have really been focusing on the pressure that those teams are going to put on us with their defense,” Havre High head coach Curt Leeds said. “We have been working on our zone press breakers and zone offenses because we know both teams like to trap out of their zones in the half court, and really try to get the tempo going their way. But I think we can (continue to score), we had a great day today (Wednesday) moving the basketball, so it is getting there. The kids know that ball movement and finding gaps kills the zone, so we just need to keep working at it. Our boys are getting more confidence in their shots.”
Dane Warp’s 24 points per game leads the Ponies this season, but plenty of other scorers are beginning to emerge for coach Leeds. Kade Rismon has bumped his scoring average to more than 10 points per game, while Jase Kato is also starting to find his way to the basket down low for the Ponies. But outside shooting was a struggle for HHS early on, making the recent scoring of Nate Rismon and Brian Smith that much more important.
If the Ponies can continue to get five and six players to score on a nightly basis, the team could continue to find success, aided by a zone defense that is also continuing to grow stronger and stronger.
Both the Indians (2-0, 5-1) and Stars (1-2, 3-4) have proven they can expose a struggling defense. Both teams like to put up shots behind the three-point arc, and both squads also get out and run and score in transition. But Havre High can run several looks out of its zone front, and in each of the four wins, the Ponies have not allowed more than 49 points. However, in each of their losses, the Ponies have allowed teams to surpass the 60-point mark. Rocky Boy can run and gun its way to 60 points, and Browning is averaging more than 62 points per game this year. The Ponies will need two great defensive outings if they want to win this weekend.
George Hall leads the Indians this year with his 15 points per game. Joseph Bremmer also adds more than nine points per game, while Emmette Dusty Bull is averaging 11 points per game. Brandon Galbreath also helps lead the league leading Indians with seven rebounds per game.
Rocky Boy is paced by Cecil Lafromboise, a 6-3 post player who has played very confidently in the paint this season. He has led the Stars in points and rebounds to this point, and has a great supporting cast that includes 6-2 Desmond Parker, 5-9 Bubby Gopher, and 5-11 Shadow Laforge. As well as that core group has played this season, a big boost in production will come from a returning All State selection. Junior Day Child has yet to play in his junior season with the Stars, but is expected to make his season debut this weekend.
“We know both teams are going to shoot the ball a lot,” Leeds said. “We just have to limit their offensive boards. If we can limit our turnovers and control the defensive boards then we will get the pace that we want to play at. We are going to make them shoot from the outside, and if they can prove that they can be good shooters from outside, then we will have to switch to our man to man. But we will sit back in our zone and make them pass the ball more than they want to before they get off a shot.”
Tonight, the Blue Pony boys will host Browning in a key Central A game at 7. Saturday night’s historic first meeting between Havre and Rocky Boy will tip off at 6:30 p.m. Both games will take place in the HHS gymnasium.