HHS girls battle Eagles tonight
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Even though the Havre High girls basketball team got off to a slow start this year, the Blue Ponies' season was never in question. And after a strong second half the Ponies are ready to take on the divisional tournament. Today through Saturday the No. 3 Ponies (6-4, 8-10) will join the rest of the Central A at the CMR Fieldhouse in Great Falls for the Central A Divisional tournament. In round one HHS will face No. 6 Lewistown (0-10, 0-18) tonight at 7. Also making an appearance will be the No. 1 Livingston Rangers (10-0, 17-1), No. 2 Butte Central Maroons (7-3, 10-8), No. 4 Belgrade Panthers (4-5, 7-10) and No. 5 Browning Indians (3-7, 8-10). "We are pretty excited about how we have been playing lately," Havre High head coach Dustin Kraske said. "And we are hoping that we can play as well at the divisional tournament as we have been the last few weeks. Our kids have done a nice job, and as long as we can stay together and continue to operate on the same page we'll be happy with the results." HHS started out 1-3 in conference play, but after a season changing turnaround the Ponies finished the season 5-1 in their last six league games. Knowing their hopes of a top two finish was out the window during the regular season, the Ponies continued to improve and captured the third spot. "We refocused what we were going to do," Kraske said, "and worked on continuing to play better each week, and things worked out for us. It's a good spot to be in, it's not an easy road by any means, but it's as good of a spot as any." The Ponies earned two wins over the Eagles during the regular season. On the road the Ponies won 40-31, and at home they won 56-32. And though the Eagles were winless on the season, Kraske and the Ponies aren't overlooking them. The Eagles will be prepared for the Ponies as Kraske said the Ponies will give them their best effort as they are expecting the Eagles best effort. On the offensive side of the ball the Ponies want to be themselves. Each player knows her role as a scorer, and they need to fill that role this week. Everybody has to look to score, and this being the third time they will see the Eagles, they have to execute well since the Eagles will be prepared. Whether it's Cassi Darrah driving to the basket or shooting threes, or whether it's Hayley Donovan and Paighton Gilman posting up, they have to attack the basket. "We need every kid that is going to play," Kraske said. "That's part of the rotation to be offensive minded. Any kid that's on the floor, our expectation is for them to be an offensive threat and to do what they do and do it as best as they can. We cant live without the kid on the floor looking to be an offensive threat." Darrah has led the Pony offense with 15.3 points per game and is also shooting 27 percent from 3-point range. Donovan is averaging 8.6 points per game and leads with over eight rebounds per game. Gilman has come on strong late in the season and is averaging over five points per game. Defensively the Ponies are also focusing on what they do rather than what the Eagles or any other team does offensively. HHS wants to execute their 2-3 zone, and play with high level of consistency. But even with that said, McCalle Feller and Amanda Stenseth will draw some extra attention by any defense. Feller averages over 13 points per game while Stenseth averages just under eight. "The biggest thing we are working on is communicating amongst ourselves," Kraske said, "getting a hand up on the shooters and rebounding. If we can do those things we're going to be happy with what happens." All of the Blue Pony focus is on the Eagles tonight. But if the Ponies can advance, they will run into the Maroons at 7 p.m. Friday. "We are going to have to do the things that we've done to be successful," Kraske said. "But anybody we play, we are going to have to play with good effort and play hard and live with it. We aren't spending a whole lot of time preparing for Butte." Livingston is a heavy favorite this weekend in Great Falls, while Butte Central has also been consistent this season. But the Ponies, Belgrade and Browning all have golden chances to grab one of the two spots in the upcoming Class A state tournament in Hamilton. HHS has been to state each of the last three years. In today's first-round girls game, Belgrade faces Browning at 1 p.m. with the winner moving on to play the Rangers Friday at 2:30 p.m. The Central A girls tournament starts today and runs through Saturday night in Great Falls. Tonight's game between HHS and Lewistown tips off at 7.