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Ponies' pride pushes to a third-place finish

BELGRADE - After watching their state championship dreams end by half an inch, the players on the Havre High boys basketball team were left to play for something just as important - pride.

The Ponies shook off a heartbreaking 53-50 loss to eventual champion Libby to defeat Glendive on Saturday morning in loser-out action and then defeat Sidney in the consolation game to place third.

"We showed a lot of pride and heart," said HHS head coach Mark West. "It was a huge letdown to lose that semifinal game; we really felt like we had a great chance against Libby. We just didn't get any breaks. It was a very tough game to lose."

Indeed, besides losing the game by three points, Havre lost it by about a half inch as Cory Brothers' high-arching, 25-foot three-point shot looked good, but ended just a fraction of an inch too long, bounced high in the air and took the Ponies' title hopes with it.

"Oh God, it stayed up there forever," Libby head coach Wally Winslow said of Brothers' shot. "That's the thing. He's so strong that shot really isn't out of his range."

It was one of the few times that Brothers didn't have Libby's Jake Swartzendruber draped all over him. After allowing 13 points in the first half, Swartzendruber made it his personal mission to stop Brothers in the second half.

"He's a good player," Swartzendruber said of Brothers. "He's going to get his shots. I just tried to stop him from getting to the middle and forcing him to take some outside shots."

The strategy worked, as Brothers was inconsistent from three-point range in the second half. He finished three of 14 from beyond the arc, but his last three-pointer brought Havre within three at 51-48 with 20 seconds remaining.

Havre was forced to foul Libby's Aaron Sutton on the ensuing play. Sutton sank one of two free throws to bump the lead to four. Havre got a break on its next possession as Sutton fouled Marc Mariani on a three-point attempt, giving him three free throw attempts. Mariani sank two of three to cut the lead to 52-50.

Havre fouled again, sending Libby's Blaine Baker to the line. Baker missed the first, but made the second to push the lead. Without any timeouts, Patrick Wirtzberger took the inbounds pass and found Brothers open for the final shot.

"I knew he was going to take the shot," Swartzendruber said. "I just wanted to get a hand in face. It was a good shot; it just didn't go in."

It was a tough ending for Havre, especially considering the Ponies' brilliant start. Havre rolled to a 25-19 half-time lead behind the trio of Brothers, Tyler Hedalen and Jared Weigel, who scored all but four of Havre's first half points.

"We were getting good shots in the first half," West said. "In the second half, they seemed to be a little more cognizant of not letting Cory get to the basket. He adjusted pretty well, and I thought a lot of those three-point attempts were in when they left his hand."

Besides the missed shots, Havre's state tournament inexperienced showed a little. Up 35-33 after three quarters, the Ponies committed turnovers on three of their first four possessions of the fourth quarter, allowing Libby to take the lead. And once the Loggers got the lead, they never gave it back.

"Our lack of experience showed some in that fourth quarter," West said. "Whenever we made a mistake, they capitalized on it. In a close game, you just can't make mistakes like that."

The loss overshadowed a solid defensive performance by Havre, which held the high-scoring Loggers well below their points-per-game average. Mariani slowed down the speedy Aaron Suton, while Brothers held Libby's leading scorer Kyle Stantus to just 10 points, 10 below his season average. However, Swartzendruber and Mitch Mohr picked up the slack, scoring a combined 28 points in the game. Each of Mohr's three three-pointers proved to be back-breakers.

"I thought our defensive game plan was pretty good," West said. "Cory did a fantastic job on Stantus and Marc stayed with Sutton. But Mohr stepped up and hit some big shots for them."

Brothers finished with a game-high 19 points on 8-22 shooting. Weigel had a solid game with 14 points, while Hedalen finished with eight points and 12 rebounds.

Havre 54, Glendive 46 (OT)

The Saturday morning loser-out games are the most unpredictable games of the tournament. Coming off a disappointing loss the night before can always be tough mentally on teams.

"Anything can happen on Saturday morning," West said. "Talent is out the door and the game is wide open. A lot of weird things happen in those games."

Weird indeed. Havre survived a scoreless outing from Brothers, fought the lingering effects from the night before and scored more points in a five minute overtime period than it did in the entire second half to pick up a 54-46 win over Glendive.

Besides being held scoreless, Brothers wasn't even on the floor at the end, having fouled out for the first time this season.

"I don't remember Cory fouling out in the three years I've coached him," West said. "And I don't know if he's ever been held scoreless in his life. He was very embarrassed with the way he played."

But the remaining Ponies helped ease the embarrassment. Havre got a solid all-around effort, with three players scoring in double figures led by Hedalen's 14 points and eight rebounds. Marc Mariani and Jared Weigel added 10 points each in the win.

Havre 64, Sidney 48

The Ponies' balanced attack and solid bench play wore down Sidney late in the game. Havre exploded for a 24-9 run in the fourth quarter which was sparked by Wirtberger's buzzer-beating three-pointer at the end of the third quarter, to pick up a 64-48 win and bring home a third-place trophy. "It's been a while since we brought some hardware home," West said. "Finishing in third place is great, obviously it's not the same as winning the state championship, but we still had a pretty successful season."

The two teams traded leads and baskets for three quarters before Havre simply wore Sidney down physically.

"Sidney actually helped us out by pressing us to start the game," West said. "That got us into the game right away and they used a lot of energy. I was really pleased with our bench players, they really gave us some good minutes."

Havre had three players finish in double figures, led by Weigel, who capped off a stellar state tournament with a game-high 16 points. Hedalen added 11 points and 11 rebounds, and Jeremy Giardina came off the bench to score 10 points and pick up three steals.

"I'm pretty proud of our kids," West said. "They really pulled themselves together after Friday night's loss. They showed a lot of pride and perseverance coming back."

Havre finished its season with an 18-7 record and loses just Brothers, Bret Magelssen and Trent Normandy to graduation. West hopes that this year's disappointment will only offer as motivation.

"We got plenty of experience for our younger guys," West said. "They got to see what it takes to be successful at this level. Hopefully, it will only make them work harder for next season."

As for the departing seniors, West admitted it was difficult to say goodbye.

"It's tough to see Cory, Trent and Bret go," West said. "They were such good kids to coach. This season really was a lot of fun."

Havre 64, Sidney 48

Havre 13 8 19 24 - 64

Sidney 14 7 18 9 - 48

Havre - Patrick Wirtzberger 2-4 2-2 8, Marc Mariani 0-3 2-2 2, Trent Normandy 1-2 0-1 3, Cory Brothers 3-11 1-2 8, Gary Wagner 0-1 2-2 2, Jeremy Giardina 2-2 4-6 10, Tyler Hedalen 5-10 1-1 11, Bret Magelssen 1-2 0-0 2, Jared Weigel 8-10 0-1 16, Tyson Parman 1-1 0-0 2. Totals: 23-46 12-17 64.

Fouls: 12, Three-point goals: 6-18 ( Wirtzberger 2-4, Normandy 1-2, Brothers 1-8, Giardina 2-2, Weigel 0-1), Rebounds: 32 ( Hedalen 11), Assists: 16 (Mariani 6), Blocks: 1, Steals: 7 (Brothers 3, Giardina 3), Turnovers: 16.

Sidney - Matt Weber 0-2 0-0 0, Brady Torgerson 0-0 0-0 0, Craig Beiswanger 0-1 0-0 0, Alex Durham 3-8 0-0 8, Jace Sullivan 3-5 2-2 9, Nelson Hilger 0-6 0-0 0, Jeff Stedham 1-2 1-1 3, Cole Prevost 5-5 4-6 14, LJ Ault 0-0 0-0 0, Ben Petersen 0-0 0-0 0, Terran Hillesland 0-5 1-2 1, James Beyer 6-9 1-2 13. Totals: 18-43 9-13 48.

Fouls: 20, Fouled out: Prevost, Sullivan, Technical fouls: Beyer, Three-point goals: 3-14 ( Durham 2-4, Sullivan 1-3, Weber 0-1, Hilger 0-5, Beiswanger 0-1), Rebounds: 21 ( Beyer 5, Prevost 4), Assists: 11 (Durham 4) Steals: 11 ( Hilger 3), Turnovers: 16.

Havre 54, Glendive 46 (OT)

Havre 13 10 4 11 16 - 54

Glendive 12 6 5 15 8 - 46

Havre - Patrick Wirtzberger 2-3 3-6 8, Marc Mariani 2-3 4-6 10, Trent Normandy 1-3 0-0 3, Cory Brothers 0-8 0-1 0, Gary Wagner 0-0 0-0 0, Jeremy Giardina 2-5 2-4 7, Tyler Hedalen 5-10 4-5 14, Bret Magelssen 1-2 0-0 2, Jared Weigel 4-7 2-4 10, Tyson Parman 0-1 0-2 0. Totals: 17-42 15-28 54.

Three-point FG: 5-16 (Wirtzberger 1-1, Mariani 2-3, Normandy 1-3, Brothers 0-6, Giardina 1-3). Fouls: 12. Fouled out: Brothers. Rebounds: 33 (Hedalen 8). Assists: 14 (Three with 3). Blocks: 4 (Magelssen 4). Steals: 12 (Wirtzberger 3). Turnovers: 17.

Glendive - Kyle Buckley 3-6 0-0 7, Shane Germann 4-6 4-4 12, Derek Selvig 1-8 0-2 2, Allen Merrill 3-3 0-0 7, Blaine Berg 1-14 0-2 2, Jess Johnson 0-1 0-0 0, Drew Milne 4-9 2-3 10, Brandon Moore 2-2 0-0 4, Todd Haggerty 0-1 0-0 0, Brent Dion 0-0 2-2 2. Totals: 18-50 8-13 46.

Three-point FG: 2-11 (Buckley 1-2, Germann 0-1, Selvig 0-2, Merrill 1-1, Berg 0-3, Johnson 0-1, Milne 0-1). Fouls: 21. Rebounds: 33 (Selvig 7). Assists: 9 (Selvig 3). Steals: 9 (Milne 3). Turnovers: 18.

Libby 53, Havre 50 (sf)

Havre 15 10 10 15 - 50

Libby 11 8 14 20 - 53

Havre - Patrick Wirtzberger 1-2 0-0 2, Marc Mariani 0-2 3-5 3, Trent Normandy 0-2 0-0 0, Cory Brothers 8-22 0-0 19, Jeremy Giardina 0-1 0-0 0, Tyler Hedalen 4-8 0-1 8, Bret Magelssen 1-3 2-2 4, Jared Weigel 6-9 0-0 14. Totals: 20-49 5-8 50.

Fouls: 21, Fouled out: Weigel, Three point goals: 5-20 ( Brothers 3-14, Weigel 2-3), Rebounds: 33 ( Hedalen 12, Brothers 6), Assists: 13 ( Mariani 4), Blocks: 2 ( Hedalen, Magelssen), Steals: 7 ( Mariani 3), Turnovers: 13.

Libby - Aaron Suton 0-2 1-2 1, Brady Turk 1-3 1-2 3, Jake Swartzendruber 3-10 7-10 14, Kyle Stantus 2-7 5-7 10, Vance Vincent 1-2 2-3 4, Mitch Mohr 5-12 1-2 14, Blaine Baker 2-6 3-4 7. Totals: 14-42 20-30 53.

Fouls: 9, Three-point goals: 5-17 ( Mohr 3-9, Stantus 1-3, Swartzendruber 1-3), Rebounds: 32 ( Swartzendruber 9, Stantus 7), Assists: 6, Blocks: 3 Turnovers: 9.


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