HHS boys brace for Rangers tonight, Panthers Saturday


The Havre High boys basketball team is remaining positive. The Blue Ponies went 0-2 in their opening weekend, but know the season is a long one, and that if they continue to improve things will get better.

And the Central A Blue Ponies (0-2) know that this weekend could be the start of a positive turnaround. Tonight the Ponies will host the Livingston Rangers at 5 p.m. and Saturday the Ponies will host the Belgrade Panthers at 2 p.m. Both conference games will take place at the Havre High gymnasium.

But as much as the Ponies would like to find the win column at home this weekend, it wont be easy.

The Rangers are an early favorite in the Central A, and the Panthers are somewhat of a mystery early on. The Rangers have talent at every position, and are led by the likes of Decker Wilson, Jesse Darr, Dallas Lussier, Landon Willyerd and Marcus Payne. And for the Panthers, they lost 10 seniors to graduation and return just one senior this season. It is kind of a rebuilding year, but the Ponies wont know for sure until they meet them here for the first time on Saturday.

The Ponies only have what they saw last year from the Panthers to go by. A year ago Belgrade was small, but very scrappy. They pressed hard and often and loved to shot 3-pointers. They got up and down the floor quickly and would penetrate and kick the ball for outside shots.

So far this season the Panthers have gotten good play from Ryan Townsend and Shiloh Christopher.

"Conference wise," Havre High head coach Andy Smith said. "A lot of people are thinking this is Livingston's year, they have a nice team. And Even though Belgrade is down, they are a big enough school that they can put some athletes on the floor. They are down compared to last year when they went to state, but they are going to be competitive, and they aren't going to be a pushover by any means."

But like a lot of young teams, the Ponies aren't totally focused on the opposition.

The Ponies have to keep focus on their execution, and what they have to do to keep improving. According to Smith, that means looking to play better defense, showing more patience on offense, a better shot selection, and everything in between.

Brandon Smith and Ryan Brandt will have to lead the Ponies just as they did last weekend, but the team needs more names to step up. Thurman Holdsclaw will be looked at to help carry the load this weekend, as will be Rydell Ruff, Kade Rismon, Tyson Kultgen and Justin Jensen.

"We have kids that are still trying to find their groove," Coach Smith said. "They are still trying to get a feel for the speed of the game and a feel for what we are trying to do offensively and defensively. We are just trying to be patient, and with just two kids (Smith and Brandt) with real varsity experience from last year, we have a lot of kids with little experience on the floor. We are trying to improve on our assignments and executions on offense and defense. We are focused on the things that we can control.

"We are playing against two awfully good basketball teams this weekend," Coach Smith added. "And we are just trying to take big steps forward. We jumped in with two feet last weekend against two good teams (Malta and CMR) and the good thing is that they showed us what needed to improve. We had a lot of things to work on this week and hopefully we can come out this weekend and play better basketball. The kids are excited for our first home game and we just have to play better basketball if we want to compete."

Tonight, the Ponies will host the Rangers at 5 p.m., while they welcome in Belgrade at 2 p.m. on Saturday.


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