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HHS girls host Class AA Bison

Blue Pony boys close out 2017 in Great Falls

 

December 22, 2017

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Ryen Olson, left, and the Havre High girls finish the 2017 portion of their schedule tonight when they host Class AA Great Falls High in the HHS gymnasium. The Pony boys are in Great Falls to take on the Bison.

Tonight, both Havre High basketball teams will take on Great Falls High in their final game before the holiday break. And while both teams are looking for a win, their motivations, are slightly different.

The Blue Pony girls, who are 5-0, will be looking to keep their undefeated record against a Class AA opponent. The Pony boys, on the other hand, are 2-3 and looking to win a second straight game and get back to .500 before a two-week break. So either way you slice it, it's a big game for both teams. The Havre girls will play Great Falls tonight at 7 inside the HHS gymnasium. The boys will play the Bison in Great Falls. Tip-off time in that is set for 5.

Of course, the boys basketball game between Havre and Great Falls was always important. Until last season, the two teams played for the Ole Goat, a traveling trophy that went between the two schools. Great Falls High has held it since the early 1990s and last season, when the schools reduced their season series from two games to one, the trophy was retired. Yet, according to Havre head coach Curt Leeds, the game still means plenty.

"I don't know if they will be fired up that way," Leeds said. "But how do you not get fired up for a basketball game at any point in time? As a kid, you only get so many of them, so I think you should be fired up for any game and want to work hard with your teammates to achieve a goal and that goal would be to win that game."

When the Ponies have won games this season, it has been because of defense. Havre has scored 50 points or more just once this season and in the other four games, they have been held under 40. For the season, Havre is averaging 38 points a game, led by Ivar Aageson (8.8 ppg) and Jacob Irvin (8.2 ppg). Yet, in the Ponies to wins, they have averaged just 41 points and in their win Tuesday night in Malta, Havre scored just 36, but won by nine after holding Malta to 27 points on 26 percent shooting.

"I think our kids can keep playing defense like they did that night (Malta)," Leeds said. "I think that our defense has been solid all year. We do need to do a better job of blocking out because we have given up some offensive rebounds and we can't do that against a team like Great Falls High with a lot of size."

Like you would expect with a Class AA team, the Bison have plenty of size as their entire offensive lineup stands at basically 6-3 or 6-4. Last season, behind the play of All-State performer Matt Howard, the Bison were 17-6 and finished third at the state tournament. This year, the Bison are off to a solid start, with a couple of early wins. Even without Howard, they still have some talented players such as Blake Thelen and Kendall Kynett, who were each starters a season ago.

While the Havre boys are looking to even up their record tonight, the girls are hoping to extend their perfect start to 6-0. In five games to start the season, the Ponies have been nothing short of dominant. Defensively, they are limiting opponents to just 30 points per game. On the other end, the Ponies are averaging 63, which also gives them an average margin of victory of 33 points.

A driving force behind the early season success for Havre has been the play of All-State sophomore Kyndall Keller, who is averaging 18.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game, which rank first and second on the team. She also leads the team in blocks, is second in steals and third in assists. Danielle Wallace, Havre's leading rebounder at 6.6, is also its other double-digit scorer. She is averaging 10.8 points and making 56 percent of her shot attempts.

Marca Herron is third on the team in scoring with 7.4 points per game. She also ranks second in assists. Kaylee Nystrom, another senior, leads the team in steals and assists with 3.5 per game in each category.

Facing Havre inside the HHS gymnasium is a Great Falls High team that is still finding its way. The Bison won their first game of the season, but have suffered a couple of blowout losses since then. They also don't have any returning starters from a team that beat Havre in Great Falls last season, but athletically, they will still pose a challenge.

"I haven't seen them a lot, just a little on film, but they look like a AA team," Kraske said. "They are an athletic team and they have some size. They will probably play a couple of girls inside at the same time, which is something we haven't seen much yet. Jerry (Schmitz Great Falls High head coach), he does a good job. They have a good program."

The top player on the floor for the Bison will be Erin Watt, who is averaging around 14 points per game this season and is a threat as an outside shooter. Katie Nicholson and Jorgie Hawthorne are two other solid contributors.

Over the years, Havre has had success against both Great Falls High and CMR, but last season, the Ponies were 0-2, which has the team motivated to get a win tonight while playing up.

"I think any time you play a class up, you get excited about it," Kraske said. "At least you would hope so. For us it's a chance to play a good team at home and that is exciting."

The Havre boys and Great Falls High will play tonight at 5 in Great Falls. The Pony girls will host Great Falls High inside the HHS gymnasium at 7.

 

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