HHS boys tangle with Panthers, Rangers


The second half of the season is here, and while the Havre High boys basketball program has gone through some growing pains early, the Blue Ponies are ready to get down to business.

HHS recorded a 2-3 conference record and a 3-6 record overall during their first nine games of the season. Now opening the second half of the season, the Ponies will face the two teams they opened the season against.

Tonight the Ponies will host the Belgrade Panthers at the Havre High gymnasium at 7 p.m. And on Saturday, HHS will host the Livingston Rangers at the Havre High gymnasium at 3:30 p.m., for their second Central A game of the weekend.

"We feel like we know our responsibilities on defense and we know what we need to execute on offense," Havre High head coach Andy Smith said. "So there are no excuses now. We need to go out and execute and the kids know what is expected of them. We are always learning, but now we need to start playing."

And the Ponies may be coming off of one of their better games of the season.

Monday the Ponies fell to the Class AA Great Falls Bison by just one point at home. But despite recording the loss, the Ponies played well all the way around. They got a solid defensive effort as well as got scoring from several players including Logan Connor, Anfernee Standing Rock, Ryan Brandt and Corderro Strickland.

If the Ponies hope to remain competitive this weekend as well as the rest of the season, a complete and consistent game is a must. Drew Kafka, Ryan Myers and Kade Barsotti also have the ability to pose as offensive threats, and Myers has led the Ponies with his defense all season long. If Havre can put it all together every night and every game, the Ponies may be getting hot at the right time.

"We are using that (Great Falls game) as a building block for the rest of the season." Smith said. "We are getting a little more offense from different kids, but it's one of those things where it wasn't consistent. A game here and there we would get a couple points from somebody, but now we've got to get that help offensively night in and night out."

During the first half of the season Connor led the Ponies with 16.6 games per game, while Standing Rock added over 15 per game. Smith and Kafka both added over five per game apiece.

The first time around the Ponies fell to the Panthers 69-52, but defeated the Rangers 58-52, both games on the road. This time around, the Ponies feel they have a solid chance at two wins, but are really looking to play well against the Panthers with some degree of redemption.

Given, it was the first game of the season for the Ponies, but the Ponies just didn't play well.

"I think everybody has improved since the start of the season," Smith said. "But I think we have improved a lot. I was watching tape of those two games today (Wednesday), and I just think we have made some big strides. Now we just have to go out and play like that this weekend.

"I just don't think we could have played a worse half against Belgrade." Smith added. "We went down 18-4 right away and made a lot of careless mistakes. It was the first game of the season and you could really see that in the kids. I think it will be a lot more evenly matched this time around."

HHS is looking to grab two more conference wins, but the competition has some talent to watch out for.

Andrew Eliot is leading Belgrade with 12.8 points per game, while Malachai Buti is averaging 9.8 and Ty Diebold and Kade Page are both averaging just under nine.

And for the Rangers, Landon Willyerd averages 10.5 per game while Marcus Payne averages just over seven.

"The kids are looking forward to this weekend with the two conference games at home." Smith said. "It's the second half of our season and we want to be right there competing with some of those better teams."

Friday the Ponies will host the Panthers at 7 p.m. And on Saturday, HHS will host the Rangers at 3:30 p.m., for their second Central A game of the weekend.


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