GREAT FALLS -- Even though the Central A divisional basketball tournament will no longer exist after this season, the tournament went out on top in its final rendition by giving basketball fans-those of Havre in particular, a night on the hardwood they will not soon forget.
Havre, which qualified both its girls and boys basketball teams for their respective Central A championship games, started the night with a bang, when the Blue Pony girls, led by 25 points from Morgan Mazurkiewicz, won their fourth consecutive divisional championship with a 54-46 win over Lewistown Saturday in Great Falls at the CMR Fieldhouse.
Yet, the night belonged to the boys as Havre and Belgrade battled each other for 40 minutes, including two sessions of overtime, before the Panthers outlasted the Ponies 75-70 to win the Central A championship. The win clinched a berth in the Class A state tournament for Belgrade. The loss for Havre, on the other hand, means the Ponies still have work to do to get to state as they will need to beat Livingston Monday at 8 p.m. in the CMR Fieldhouse to secure their berth.
For much of the boys championship game, it looked like Belgrade was in complete control and at one point led by as many as 13. Yet, in the final seconds of the third quarter, things started to change, when Dane Warp nailed a buzzer beater to get the Ponies within 10 and set off a fourth quarter of pandemonium.
Despite its best efforts and a late run, Havre could not pull even with the Panthers and with less than 30 seconds to go in the fourth quarter, the Ponies trailed 51-45.
That's when Warp had his Reggie Miller moment.
With 28 seconds to play and Havre down six, Warp did the unthinkable and proceeded to score eight points in 14 seconds to tie the game at 53-53 and send it to overtime. Early in the extra stanza, HHS took the lead thanks to treys by Nate Rismon and Jacob LaBrie, but In the end, the Panthers rallied, forced a second overtime and eventually snagged the win.
However, the loss for Havre doesn't change the fact that Warp, with his game-high 41 points put together an individual performance for the ages, one that is sure to live on in the history books of the Central A tournament.
"It's hard to know what to say about him," HHS head coach Curt Leeds said. "He's a great player and he just knows how to score in so many ways."
The Havre girls will play next in the Class A state tournament on Thursday in Hamilton, while the Pony boys must return to the CMR Fieldhouse Monday night to take on Livingston at 8 p.m., in a winner-take-all game to determine who goes to the state tournament.
For full coverage, see Monday's edition of the Havre Daily News.