The Havre High boys basketball team came just one win away from taking the Central A title in Belgrade. But despite losing a tight matchup in the Central A championship game, the Blue Ponies are headed back to the Class A state basketball tournament for the first time in a very long time.
In the 2005-2006 prep season, the Ponies punched their ticket to the state tournament as a No. 2 seed. Now the Blue Ponies are finally going back to state, a tournament which will be played this weekend at the Four Seasons Arena in Great Falls.
“This feels good. It feels like the Blue Pony program has taken another foot forward this year,” Havre High second-year head coach Curt Leeds said. “The boys came out and played their hearts out this weekend, they never gave up, they never put their heads down and they just battled all weekend long. We knew the boys had this in them all along, we have seen in some full games and some half games. But we put a tough, good weekend together, and they really did battle until the very end.”
HHS defeated the Browning Indians 64-61 Friday in the semifinals at the Central A in Belgrade. Saturday, the Belgrade Panthers escaped HHS and handed the Ponies a 50-41 loss in the championship game, but without a challenge game, the Ponies also earned a spot at this weekends state tournament in Great Falls.
On championship night, the Panthers played another good game against the Ponies, the third meeting between the two rivals. And despite one off quarter, the Ponies also played very well, losing by nine points. Belgrade beat Havre by eight in the last meeting.
But after a solid start, leading the Panthers 13-12 through the first quarter, the Ponies ran into a sluggish second quarter. Shiloh Christopher drained a 3-pointer to give the Panthers the 15-14 lead early in the second, but just seconds later Jase Kato hit a short-range shot underneath to take the lead back at 16-15. Unfortunately, the Ponies wouldn’t hit another field goal in the second frame, falling behind 22-17 on a 7-1 run by the Panthers. A lot of things went right for the Panthers including two buckets from behind the arc to control a quarter that proved to be too much for the Ponies to overcome.
In the second frame the Ponies were just 1-for-8 shooting and committed five turnovers.
“We didn’t execute the best offensively,” Leeds said. “We forced some shots, and we had quite a few turnovers. We just weren’t’ in a good groove. Some of that was kind of expected because none of these boys have been in a championship game before, so they didn’t know what it was going to be like. But it was a huge learning experience, and we really do have what it takes now to compete with any team at state this year. The boys have taken their game to a new level and their ability to compete is at a new level.”
Havre did bounce back in the second half, but the Ponies just couldn’t overtake the Panthers. The Ponies were outscored 10-8 in the third and 18-16 in the fourth as their comeback attempt came up just short.
Kade Rismon led the Ponies with 12 points and Dane Warp added 11 in an abbreviated performance. Nate Rismon also scored nine and Michael Bakke added five of his own.
Leeds got caught in a tough situation when Warp earned his fourth foul with 6:38 left in the fourth. Warp fouled out at the 6:18 mark, immediately following a Blue Pony timeout. Leeds could have either sat Warp and hope his team could stay close without him, or let Warp play and see if he could lead his team to a win. It was a tough call to make and it was an unfortunate call on a loose ball that sidelined Warp early.
“That was really tough, and I debated that decision,” Leeds said. “But sometimes you have to let your best player play and hopefully they can battle through a situation like that. His fifth foul was on a loose ball situation where I think he had the ball and was the one who got fouled. But the call went the other way, and I was just happy to see he kept competing for us while he was on the floor. That was my fault, I had him on the floor there, but at the same time our other kids really stepped up and played hard without Dane.”
If a similar situation arises at state, Leeds knows his players can still stay afloat. Warp has the potential to go off for 30 points, but if he has to sit, young players like Jerod Boles and Nate Korb proved they could give quality minutes when called on. HHS was also without the services of senior starter Brian Smith, who suffered an injury last week.
As tough as the loss to Belgrade was, the win over the Indians was also a game where the Ponies came out and played very well and ultimately punched their ticket to state.
The Ponies had another second quarter that was somewhat slow, but against Browning the Ponies were able to overcome the seven-point outing. The Ponies really rallied in the second half with a 19-point third quarter and 21-point fourth quarter. The impressive second half was just what the Ponies needed to overcome the 35-24 deficit at intermission.
Trailing 11 at the break, the Ponies were able to cut that deficit to eight through the third frame. After that, the Ponies were off and running in the final eight minutes.
“That was a huge win,” Leeds said. “In that third quarter the boys found a whole new gear and really outplayed the Indians in the fourth quarter. We were getting the rebounds, we were tough defensively, and offensively our boys just decided they wanted to score, and they did.”
Warp drained seven 3-pointers and scored a career-high 34 points in the narrow victory. Warp also shot 7-for-10 from 3-point range and had seven rebounds and three steals. Michael Bakke also stepped up and finished with 10, while Nate Rismon and Kade Rismon combined for another 15 for the Ponies.
Overall it was a great weekend for the Ponies who are now 7-13.
“This was definitely the boys’ moment,” Leeds said. “I am just glad I was there to share it with them.”
Havre will face the Northwest A champion in the first round of the Class A state tournament Thursday at 2:30 p.m. The Northwest A Divisional won’t be decided until Tuesday as the tournament in Kalispell was postponed over the weekend. The Class A state tourney runs Thursday through Saturday at Four Seasons Arena.
Belgrade 50 Havre 41 (1st)
Havre 13 3 8 16 - 41
Belgrade 12 10 10 18 - 50
Havre – Jerod Boles 1 0-0 2, Nate Rismon 3 2-2 9, Jonathan Faber 0 0-0 0, Dane Warp 4 0-0 11, Jeff Miller 0 0-0 0, Michael Bakke 0 5-6 5, Nate Korb 0 0-0 0, Wyatt Lindbloom 0 0-0 0, Jase Kato 1 0-0 2, Kade Rismon 6 0-0 12. Totals: 16 7-8 41.
Belgrade – Trevor Mahn 5 0-0 11, Brayden Konkol 2 0-0 4, Brandon Stubbs 2 0-2 4, Koby Ruff 3 4-6 11, Ethan Turner 1 3-5 6, Shiloh Christopher 4 5-9 14, Keldon Lamb 0 0-0 0, Baxter Roys 0 0-0 0. Totals: 17 12-22 50.
3-point goals: Hav 2 (Rismon 1, Warp 1), Bel 4 (Mahn 1, Ruff 1, Turner 1, Christopher 1). Rebounds: Hav 26 (Kato 5, Rismon 5), Bel 29 (Konkol 8). Fouls: Hav 18, Bel 16. Fouled out: Warp. Technicals: Havre coach.
Dan Chesnet/Belgrade News
Havre High's Dane Warp, right, looks for room during Friday's Central A semifinal against Browning in Belgrade. The Ponies came back to beat the Indians, which led to a Class A state tournament berth.
Havre 64, Browning 61 (sf)
Havre 17 7 19 21 - 64
Browning 19 16 14 12 - 61
Havre - Jerod Boles 2 0-0 5, Nate Rismon 3 0-0 7, Jonathan Faber 0 0-0 0, Dane Warp 12 3-4 34, Jeff Miller 0 0-0 0, Michael Bakke 3 5-6 10, Wyatt Lindblom 0 0-0 0, Jase Kato 0 0-0 0, Kade Rismon 3 2-2 8. Totals: 23 9-11 64.
Browning - Brandon Galbreath 5 0-1 10, Joseph Bremner 5 2-3 12, George Hall 3 4-6 11, Joe St. Goddard 0 0-0 0, Clarence McNabb 3 0-0 6, Jake Bell 3 0-0 7, Trevor Gray 4 2-3 11, Emmette Dusty Bull 1 0-0 2, Josh Monroe 1 0-0 2, Sam Croff 0 0-0 0. Totals: 25 8-13 61.
3-point goals: Hav 9 (Warp 7, Boles 1, Rismon 1), Brown 3 (Hall 1, Bell 1, Gray 1). Rebounds: Hav 32 (Bakke 11), Brown 25 (Bremner 7). Fouls: Hav 14, Brown 16. Fouled out: none. Technicals: none.