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Blue Pony boys ready for Corral debut

Havre High opens Central A play with Livingston, Belgrade


December 15, 2017

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Havre's Trey Murphy, left, looks to pass during a Central A Conference game against Livingston last winter. The Blue Ponies make their hme debut tonight against the Rangers, and also host the Belgrade Panthers Saturday afternoon at the HHS gymnasium. Tonight's game tips at 6, and Saturday's game starts at 3 p.m.

It's no secret that conference basketball games are important, no matter what level you are talking about. But when you play just six of them and they determine your seeding for the postseason, their importance reaches a whole new level.

In the next two days, the Havre High boys basketball team will find out just how important they are, as the Blue Ponies get ready to play a third of their conference schedule with games against Livingston tonight at 6 and Saturday against Belgrade at 3 p.m.

"Your postseason seeding is decided by just six games," HHS head coach Curt Leeds said. "It's kind of funny that way, so they are super important and every game is going to be a battle for us. Our conference is tough. Livingston is much improved. Lewistown is going to be very good and Belgrade is always good. So it's going to be a battle every game this year in conference play."

Last season, Livingston fell just short of making the Class A state tournament, but with two of their top players back from a season ago in Jakim Ricketts and Rydell Floyd, the Rangers have the makings of a dangerous team. In Livingston's win over Townsend last weekend, Ricketts scored 23 and Floyd had 15, so both appear to be in mid-season form.

"Against Livingston, we are really going to have to play well defensively," Leeds said. "That will be a completely different game for us than Belgrade. They run a very high-tempo, dribble-drive offense and they love to move the ball up the floor. The main thing against them is to make sure we slow them down and don't allow their offense to get going."

While the Rangers will try to beat the Ponies with an explosive offense, Belgrade will try to beat the Ponies on the defensive end. Although the Panthers do have maybe the best offensive player in the Central A in Dawson Fowler, who is committed to play basketball at the University of Montana Western, their strength is still locking down people on defense.

"He's a pretty good player," Leeds said. "They run a lot of their offense through him."

In addition to Fowler, the Panthers also have Easton Page, who poured in 24 points in Belgrade's season-opening win over Miles City. After that, Belgrade doesn't have a ton of dynamic scorers, but the Panthers specialize in defense and rebounding, which will be key against Havre.

"They are a very good defensive team so it's going to be important for us to get our offense going," Leeds said. "Against Park, we will really need to get stops, because they are a very good offensive team."

One thing Havre did very well in its opening games was defend, as it held Glendive and Sidney to an average of just 43 points a game. However, the Ponies scored just 42 points a game on the offensive end. That's a number they will need to improve if they want to come away with wins over the Rangers or Panthers.

Yet, with Ivar Aageson, who is scoring 10 points a game and Tanner Parsons, who is averaging 9.5 per game, Havre has the ability to improve. Jacob Irvin, who scored 8.5 points per game over the first weekend, will be another key player for the Ponies, along with Austin Delarosa, Tysen Sangrey and Laz Windy Boy. Sangrey, a junior, is leading the team in rebounds with nine per game. Aageson is just behind him with 7.5.

"We have the talent to compete with all these teams," Leeds said. "I just think the Central is tough all the way through this year."

The Central A may be very competitive, but if Havre wants to put itself into the mix, it needs a win or two this weekend to make that happen. The Ponies have just three conference games at home all season and two of them are this weekend. After that, they will play three of their final four conference games on the road. So a good start, meaning one win or even two, is essential.

"If you split with teams, get one win at home or one on the road, you will be around the middle of the pack," Leeds said. "And that would get you pretty good seeding at divisionals, but as it comes down to it, we want to win every game that approaches and the more wins we can pull off, especially conference wins, the better it is for us come tournament time."

Havre will play Livingston tonight at 6, followed by a showdown with Belgrade Saturday at 3 p.m. Both games will be played inside the HHS gymnasium.


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