Pony boys post a pair of wins at tip-off tourney
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The Havre Blue Pony boys basketball team got the 2002-03 season started off on the right foot as it captured a pair of wins over the weekend at the Central A Tip-off Tournament in Belgrade.
The Ponies defeated the Livingston Runnin' Rangers on Friday night and held off a pesky Belgrade Panthers team Saturday afternoon.
Havre head coach Mark West was very happy with the way his troops played over the two-day period.
"Overall we are very pleased with the start of the season," West said. "The kids played very well both games and I saw a lot of positive things out of this team for how early in the season it is."
Friday night the Ponies routed the Runnin Rangers 74-44 behind a solid defensive effort from the entire team and the play of junior swingman Cory Brothers, who led the way for the Ponies, scoring a game-high 31 points. The Ponies used large scoring spurts in the first and final stanzas to really pull away from the Rangers. Havre outscored the Rangers 24-13 in the first quarter and 26-11 in the final period.
West said his team's defensive efforts were the key to the victory.
"One of the things we knew we really had to improve on from last season is defense and we have worked very hard at it," West said. "I thought we defended the ball really well against Livingston. We forced them to turn the ball over so I was very happy with that."
Havre also got 14 points from Ryan Lusin and overall had nine different players in the scoring column.
On Saturday afternoon, the Ponies pulled out a 10-point 75-65 victory over the host Belgrade Panthers. After three quarters Havre had a commanding lead, but foul trouble enabled Belgrade to creep back into the game.
But the Ponies didn't panic. They held off Belgrade by executing the four-corners offense and making free throws down the stretch of the game.
"We got into a lot of foul trouble in the second half and that hurt us," West said. "But the kids got through it. I was really pleased with the way they maintained the lead and were able to win the game at the foul line."
"Justin Kegel really stepped up down the stretch because he went 7-9 at the line at the end of the game and that was a pressure situation to be in," West added.
Brothers again led the way for the Ponies with a game-high 27 points. Havre also got solid contributions from Steve Heberly with 10 points. Lusin added 12 and Kegel had nine.
It was the play off of the bench that West was pleased with in the win over Belgrade.
"Eric Ward didn't play against Belgrade because he suffered an injury to his face, so I was really happy with the way the guys off the bench really stepped up and helped the team," West said.
The Ponies are now 2-0 on the season, and every game they play will count in the Central A Conference standings. Despite getting two wins, West still sees some things that his team will need to improve.
"Overall, this was good to get these first two wins because it gives our guys some confidence," West said. "And I was really pleased with the way they played. But one area we need to get a lot better in is rebounding. We will have to work a lot harder in that area this week."
Havre will travel to Glasgow on Thursday and then return home to face the defending Class B state champion Harlem Wildcats on Friday night at the Havre High gymnasium.