Blue Pony Hoops 2017-18: HHS Boys Ready for a Fresh Start

Blue Ponies striving for an improved season on the hardwood

 

December 7, 2017

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Ivar Aageson and the Havre High boys basketball team are ready to start a brand new season. The Blue Ponies struggled last winter, but they return a solid group of veterans, as well as talented newcomers for head coach Curt Leeds. Havre opens the season this weekend in Sidney and Glendive.

Every high school basketball team is different, and that's one thing the Havre Blue Ponies are counting on, as the Havre High boys basketball team tries to rebound from a difficult 2016-17 campaign.

Last season, Havre struggled to a 3-17 record. After losing out at the Eastern A Divisional Tournament, it ended a string of three straight state tournament appearances for HHS. But even so, according to head coach Curt Leeds, the goals don't change regardless of what happened last season.

"I think (making the state tournament) has to be the expectation every year, hands down," HHS head coach Curt Leeds said. "If we are going to have a consistent program and we are going to have a good program, we need to have that expectation that we are going to go at the end of the season. Whether the regular season is good or bad, that needs to be the expectation. Because regardless of what happens, our players are going to learn and get better, our coaches are going to learn about our players and we are going to be ready to make a run at divisional time. Last year, we didn't meet that expectation and that's on my shoulders. But for me, that is the expectation every year."

If the Ponies are going to make a run at divisionals and at a state tournament berth, they will need to play much better than they did a season ago. And while Havre will be without players such as Isaac Warp, Jacob LaBrie and Nate Korb, who graduated from last year's team, HHS still has some veterans in the fold, with five seniors on the roster. Those five players are Trey Murphy, Ivar Aageson, Jacob Irvin, Laz Windy Boy and Austin Jones, an All-State cross country runner that decided to go out again for basketball.

"It was nice that Austin came back out," Leeds said. "You can tell that he has worked hard, with all of the things that he has done with cross country and he actually gives us some size that we really need."

Yet, Havre will also have plenty of youth and some players that will see their first varsity experience. Tanner Parsons, a sophomore, will be back after seeing lots of time last year as a freshman, while juniors Tysen Sangrey, Austin Delarosa and Tommy Brown, who have very little varsity playing time between the three of them, will also see bigger roles.

"Last year, we started out as an older team, then because of some injuries had to be a younger team," Leeds said. "There is always going to be that growing curve, but I have seen a lot of these guys put in a lot of time over the summer and a lot of them have really improved."

The Ponies will need guys like Parsons, Delarosa and Sangrey to grow up quickly, because the competition across the Central A and the Eastern A, is not going to be easy this season. Not by any means.

"I definitely think we will have a learning curve this year," Leeds said. "But I think that as long as we are working hard and continuing to get better each game, we should be where we need to be at the end of the year."

Belgrade, a state tournament team a season ago, is going to have All-State standout Dawson Fowler back in the fold. Dawson recently committed to play for the University of Montana-Western.

Lewistown, which just missed out on the state tournament, brings back Tanner Trafton and Jaden Graham. Livingston will also have Ladan Ricketts once again, so the Central A, will be tough night in and night out.

"Belgrade is still going to be good," Leeds said. "They have a lot of size and some good athletes. Lewistown has a lot of kids back, so they are going to be tough and Livingston is also going to be tough with the Ricketts kid back. So our conference is going to be a battle. We are really going to have to compete every night."

Havre will also have to compete against the Eastern A when it comes to divisionals and that won't be easy either, not with teams like Billings Central, Laurel, Hardin, Miles City, Sidney and Glendive to deal with. Billings Central was the Class A runner-up to Dillon the past two seasons and return their second-leading scorer from a season ago in Chrishon Dixon. Hardin, another state tournament teams, also returns Famous Lefthand and David Evans.

"In the Eastern A, pretty much everyone is solid," Leeds said. "I mean look at Sidney. They had the worst record, but they didn't lose a single game by more than six points."

The Ponies will get their first taste of Eastern A teams right out of the gate, as Havre will open the season with back-to-back road games against Sidney and Glendive this Friday and Saturday. After that, Havre will jump right into conference play, with home games against against Belgrade and Livingston, Dec. 15 and 16, followed by road trips to Malta and Great Falls High Dec. 18 and Dec. 22.

After the holiday break, the Ponies will resume their schedule on the road against Fairfield, Jan. 5, before a home game against Lewistown Jan. 6. HHS will then host Rocky Boy and Browning on back-to-back nights Jan. 11-12, with a road trip looming against Livingston, Jan. 19, and Belgrade, Jan. 20. CMR and Malta will invade the HHS gymnasium, Jan. 26-27, followed by Fairfield, which comes to Havre Feb. 2. Three straight road games against Lewistown, Feb. 3, Browning, Feb. 9, and Rocky Boy, Feb. 10, close out the regular season.

Regardless of what happens in the regular season, all 10 teams from the Eastern and Central A conferences will take part in the Eastern A Divisional, which will be Feb. 21-24 in Billings. The Class A state tournament will be held in Bozeman, March 1-3.

 

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