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Ponies drill Libby to advance to Class A semifinals

 

Colin Thompson

Kyndall Keller rises up for a shot in the quarterfinals of the Class A girls state tournament Thursday in Great Falls.

GREAT FALLS -- The Havre High girls basketball team didn't dominate for four quarters against the Libby Loggers in the quarterfinals of the Class A state tournament Thursday in Great Falls, but they controlled the game enough to advance the state semifinals for the sixth time in seven years.

Throughout the first half, the Loggers were able to hang with the Blue Ponies, thanks to four 3-pointers from Jayden Winslow. However, after leading 25-20 at the break, Havre found an answer for Winslow and used two triples from Kyndall Keller to spark a 16-3 run that gave HHS a 16-point lead after three quarter en route to a runaway 62-28 win in the first round.

Havre, which improved to 21-1 on the season, will look to get back to the Class A state championship game with a win Friday against Laurel. The two Eastern A rivals will tip-off at approximately 3 p.m.

"Congratulations to our kids," HHS head coach Dustin Kraske said. "We came out and played well. We will need to come out a little more ready to go on Friday. But kudos to our kids."

While the Ponies are no stranger to the state tournament, they still had some jitters to work out in the first quarter and after Winslow hit her second trey of the opening stanza, Havre found itself trailing 13-8. But, HHS had the answer and following a 6-0 run, one that was capped by a 3-pointer in the closing seconds of the first, Havre led 14-13.

The Ponies continued the run early in the second quarter, with hoops from Keller, Kylie Walker and Kaite Wirtzberger, which gave Havre a 20-13 lead after a 12-0 run. Havre went ahead by as many as eight points in the second, yet two 3-pointers in the last few minutes by Winslow trimmed the lead to 25-20 at intermission.

"Credit to her," Kraske said of Winslow. "It wasn't like we weren't trying to guard her. We lost track of her once in our zone, but credit to her, she made some tough shots. We had some good looks and we missed some of them, so it wasn't like we weren't trying, that's just the game sometimes."

In the third quarter, Havre amped up the defensive pressure and on the other end, two 3-point makes by Keller helped push the lead to 13 and after a driving layup by Kadia Miller, Havre led 41-24 after a 14-2 spurt. By the end of the third quarter, Havre found itself leading 43-27.

"We picked up our pressure there in the second half and got after it a little bit," Keller said. "We got up and guarded (Winslow) and tried our best to keep the ball away from her."

Libby was still within striking distance, but the Loggers needed a run to open the final period, instead, it was the Ponies who scored the first 12 points to push their lead to 55-27, ending any hope of a comeback by the Loggers as Havre won 62-28 after holding Libby to one point in the final eight minutes.

Colin Thompson

Havre's Kadia Miller attempts a shot against Libby in the quarterfinals of the Class A state tournament Thursday.

Keller had an efficient outing for Havre, finishing with 14 points. Miller also joined her in double figures with 10 and Filius, who offered a spark on both ends of the floor, also added 10 points as well as three assists.

The offense was a big key for Havre in the second half, with 37 points on 61.5 percent shooting, yet the Pony defense was an even bigger key and after giving up 12 points to Winslow in the opening half, she was shutout was held to two in the second half to finish with 14. As a team, Libby shot just 26 percent from the field for the game and just 15 percent (2-of-14) in the second half.

"Our kids just had a lot more energy in the second half," Kraske said. "And anytime you win that first game at the state tournament, that's perfect. It's hard enough to get to a state tournament, let alone win a game."

Havre, the second-seeded team from the East, will play Laurel Friday at 3 p.m. The Locomotives upset Columbia Falls, the No. 1 from the West to form the all-Eastern A semifinal.

 

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