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Blue Ponies' state title reign ends at unfinished Class A state tourney in Billings

Havre loses to Central in Class A semifinals


Last updated 3/16/2020 at 7:35am

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Havre's Sadie Filius, right, drives the ball past a Billings Central defender during a Class A state tournament semifinal game in Billings. The Rams beat the Blue Ponies, and, afterward, the remainder of the tournament was cancelled due to growing concerns over COVID-19.

BILLINGS - With the quarterfinal win over the Hamilton Broncs, the Havre High girls basketball team was ready to face their biggest challenge yet, to take down the Billings Central Rams in the semifinals of the Class A girls state tournament Friday evening in the First Interstate Bank Arena at the Metra in Billings.

Unfortunately, the Blue Ponies fell to the Rams 50-43 and did not have their chance at a three-peat as state A champions.

On top of that, Havre did not get the chance to try and claim third place either, and their season has ended, as the Montana High School Association released a statement cancelling the rest of the tournament, as well as the other state basketball tournaments, due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) concern.

With four cases testing positive in four different cities at the time of the cancellation, there was no continuation of the tournaments, with the semifinal winners being crowned as co-champions, those champs being the Rams and the Hardin Bulldogs.

After the abrupt end, HHS athletic director Dennis Murphy gave a statement on the cancellation to Havre Daily News Friday night.

"We've been following the recommendation of the CDC and the medical personnel in Montana," Murphy said. "The association has been in contact with them each day and, obviously, we've come to a point where it was time, we need to cancel this tournament. It's unfortunate, but it's based on what's going around. It's the right thing to do."

But before the cancellation was announced, Havre and Billings Central squared off in the Metra. Blue Pony head coach Dustin Kraske thought his team fought hard throughout the game against the Rams.

"We fought hard tonight," Kraske said. "But Billings Central had us all the way through the game."

To start of the game, the two recent-year rivals battled it out. Senior Kyndall Keller gave the Ponies an early lead, but Isabelle Erickson and Mya Hansen tied it back up. Keller put up another basket, then Maria Stewart responded, while Sadie Filius tried to inch closer back into the lead. After the first quarter, Central led Havre 9-6.

Keller and Hansen traded blows once again to open the second stanza, followed by an unanswered 7-0 run by the Ponies to lead 15-14 with 3:06 left in the first half. Hansen and Olivia Moten-Schell dropped some buckets for the Rams, but a final minute basket by Keller had Havre leading 20-17 at halftime.

After the intermission, HHS started to hit a slump. Central took back the lead, Filius snagged it right back, then Erickson dropped a field goal to get the lead, followed by some baskets by Havre senior Sam Oliver. In the end, Hansen had just enough to have the Rams lead 26-25 after three. The Ponies had no field goals in the third quarter.

That trend continued into the fourth quarter, where Central put up buckets to lead 30-25, while Havre still could not sink a field goal. Then, the Rams went on an unanswered 7-0 run of their own to extend their lead 37-27. From there, Keller would make the Ponies first field goal of the second half, but Hansen and Central stayed on top to seal their win as Class A girls co-champions.

At the end of the game, Kraske still saw something strong on the court for his team despite the loss.

"I thought we did well defensively for a good portion of the game," Kraske said."

That is when the cancellation of the tournament came about, which crowned Billings Central and Hardin, after the Bulldogs beat Livingston in the semifinals, as the Class A state co-champions of the 2020 season. In the end, HHS ended up just one win short of the three-peat, even if the Ponies did not know it yet.

Now, Havre's season has ended. The Ponies graduate a strong senior class in Kadia Miller, Jessa Chvilicek, Katie Wirtzberger, Keller and Oliver, with Havre ending the year with a stellar 23-3 record overall, while still being undefeated in the Northeast A conference in its first season of existence, an accomplishment not easy to claim.

The abrupt end to the season was very sudden for many sports fans across the state of Montana, including the senior classes. Many other teams along with Havre felt the pain of the postseason swiftly ending. Like the college level seniors, their season will not result in a chance to play in a championship, or in the Ponies' case, fighting for a third-place finish.

With that, HHS girls basketball awaits its next season on the hardwood after an abrupt end to their season Friday night due to the coronavirus concern. Now, many sports fans across Montana wonder if the spring sports season will meet the same fate, as all schools, including HHS, will not be operating over the next couple weeks under a directive issued by Gov. Steve Bullock.

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Havre's Kyndall Keller shoots over the Billings Central defense during Friday night's Class A state tournament game in Billings. After Friday night's session, the tournament was canceled due to concerns over COVID-19.

Billings Central 50, Havre 43


BCC 9 8 9 24 – 50

HAV 6 14 5 18 – 43

BCC – Maria Stewart 7, Solei Elletson 7, Mya Hansen 22, Isabelle Erickson 5, Olivia Moten-Schell 9. Totals: 13 19-25 50.

HAV – Sam Oliver 3, Kyndall Keller 18, Kylie Walker 3, Loy Waid 3, Kadia Miller 5, Jessa Chvilicek 2, Sadie Filius 9. Totals: 13 16-24 43.


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