Ponies face Bison tonight in battle for the Ole Goat
The first time the Havre High boys basketball team went to Great Falls this season, things didn't go too well against the top-ranked CMR Rustlers back in December.
Tonight, Blue Pony head coach Mark West is hoping for a reversal of fortunes when No. 2 ranked Havre High (7-2) takes on the Great Falls High Bison (3-4) at the Bison Fieldhouse in Great Falls.
Tonight's matchup between the Ponies and Bison will also renew the rivalry for the Ole Goat traveling trophy.
The Ponies will have to defeat Great Falls High twice this season in order to return the trophy to the halls of Havre High and that is something that hasn't happened in more than a decade. Nevertheless, West's troops will be very fired up to take on the Bison.
"We love to go down and play the Great Falls schools because it presents such a challenge to our program," West said. "It is a lot like how some of the Class B schools always try to come to Havre and knock us off. That is what we want to do to a great Class AA school like Great Falls High."
Although the Bison don't have a very sparkling record right now, they are a very good team playing in perhaps the deepest conference in all of Montana - the Eastern AA. Great Falls High has lost three games this season by one-point margins, so West cautions that a losing record does not tell the whole story when it comes the Bisons.
"Great Falls High is a very physical team and they have some outstanding players," West said. "They are also very experienced. They have already been in a lot of tough battles this season. For us to beat them, it will take our best effort of the season."
The Bison graduated two college basketball players last season including all-state guard Brian Lynch, who is now playing for the Montana Grizzlies. Lynch scored 30-plus points in a season split with the Ponies last year. The Bison also lost all-conference forward Cody Gillespie, who is a redshirt freshman for the MSU-Northern Lights basketball team.
However, GFH returned a wealth of talented and experienced players with very good size. They are led by point guard and leading scorer Josh Saunders. GFH also has strong physical presence inside with 6-5, 240-pound Brett Siddoway and 6-3 Tyler Corwin. Senior Tyler Bolton also provides leadership on the floor.
"We don't match up well with their two big men inside so rebounding will again be a concern against them," West said. "But I do feel like we can play with them on the perimeter because of our quickness. We'll have to use that to our advantage on both ends of the floor if we are going to have success against the Bison."
The Ponies are coming off wins last weekend in Browning and at home against Malta. Senior Cory Brothers (20.9 ppg.) started to heat up from the outside, scoring 56 points combined in the two victories.
However, West still sees many things that his team needs to improve and he knows that it will have to make those improvements immediately if the Ponies are to have a chance tonight.
"I definitely feel like this is a winnable game for us,z because we are very well prepared and focused right now," West said. "But we absolutely have to rebound and defend. If we don't do those two things well, we are going to struggle because the Bison will make us pay in those areas.
"But if we can do those things well and we execute our offense efficiently, I think we will be right in this game at the end. That is all you want against a team like Great Falls High, a chance to win at the end of the game."
The contest between the Ponies and Bison is slated to tip off at 7:30 p.m. at the Bison Fieldhouse in Great Falls.