Pony boys hit the floor tonight
Reaching the state tournament is always a goal for the Havre High boys basketball team. And while the Blue Ponies have come just short the past couple of years, they will look to accomplish that goal with the start of another season.
For two straight years, the Havre High boys basketball team has come close to reaching the state tournament. But for two straight seasons, the Central A Ponies have come away with the No. 3 spot in the conference and missed out on a state berth.
Tonight in Malta, the Ponies will get the 2010-2011 season started, facing the Class B Malta Mustangs.
"I am sure every team feels the same way," Havre High head coach Andy Smith said. "When you are banging against each other every single day in practice, there comes a point where you want to figure out if what you are doing is working. We want to play against another team to evaluate ourselves and just see where we are at. Our kids are ready for a game."
But nobody is certain how the season will start, especially after losing their top producers from a year ago.
With the loss of Thane Grey and CJ Evans to graduation, and the loss of Anfernee Standing Rock to transfer, the Ponies lost nearly all of their offense. Evans had a good sense for finding his way to the basket, as well as the ability to knock down 3-point shots. And Standing Rock and Grey gave the Ponies good size and dominating rebounders. Smith says the three accounted for nearly 80 percent of the Ponies offense.
Logan Connor, Drew Kafka, Brandon Smith, Corderro Stickland and Ryan Myers all return to the squad this season, and will look to be the starters as the players with the most varsity experience. But looking to get in the mix as well tonight will be Kade Barsotti, Ryan Brandt, Rydell Ruff, Thurman Holdsclaw and Kolby Sukut.
"Some of the kids have no varsity experience and some of the kids have very, very little," Smith said. "(Tonight's) game will show us how far a long they have come. We need to figure out who can do it in a game situation, who's going to e able to execute when the intensity is picked up and the speed of the game is picked up. We need to make sure we give some kids a look so we can see what they can do."
And the Mustangs will make for the perfect test for the Ponies. They are always a force in the Class B, and will show the Ponies exactly what they need to fix. And not being a conference opponent, the Ponies can try some things they wouldn't normally try.
"This is going to be a great test," Smith said. "I think Malta has a really nice team this year. Like I said before, I can't look at a game on our calendar and say we just have to show up and we will win. We have to compete night in and night out if we are going to have a chance to win. That's what I am excited to see, I am looking forward to see how they come out and compete."
If the Ponies want to find some success tonight they have to execute on offense, but be a defensive minded team. HHS knows their offense will grow stronger as the season progresses. Connor always poses as huge threat from outside, but Kafka has to be dominant down low as the Ponies big man. His play down low will open things up for other Pony shooters.
"Drew (Kafka) has to be an inside presence for us." Smith said. "We are definitely going to look to get him involved with the offense."
But defensively, the Ponies have to be tough right out of the gate.
If they can make stops and give teams trouble, they will keep themselves in games on those nights the offense doesn't produce. The Ponies will pressure teams, both in a full court and half-court press. And with the pressure, the Ponies will look to force teams into turnovers as well hopefully score a few buckets in transition.
"It all has to start on the defensive end," Smith said. "Our defense is going to set the tone for our offense. If there are games that we struggle offensively, we still want to be right in there in it because we are willing to work on the defensive end."
Tonight the Ponies will face the hosting Class B Mustangs in Malta in their first game of the new season at 7:30.