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Powerful Ponies shooting for Eastern A title

Havre High girls favored to reclaim the divisional championship

 

Last updated 2/23/2022 at 8:43am

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Havre's Avery Carlson, right, dribbles the ball against Browning at Havre High Gymnasium earlier this month. Carlson and the Blue Ponies take their 15-game winning streak into the Eastern A Divisionals in Billings this week.

After winning the state championship last season, the 2021-22 season has seen the Havre High girls basketball roll through the competition. The Blue Ponies finished the regular season with a 17-1 record and are riding a 15-game winning streak.

Now it is time for the Ponies to put up or shut up as they head to the Eastern A Divisionals at the First Interstate Bank Arena in Billings. After everything they have already accomplished and worked on through the season, HHS head coach Dustin Kraske believes it will begin to bear fruit this week.

"Our kids have put a lot of time in and the tournament is the opportunity to have a reward for all that hard work," Kraske said.

The Ponies will play their first game of the tournament on Thursday at 1:30 p.m. They will play either Lockwood (4-13) and Glendive (0-16) who will play each other this afternoon. While the Lockwood Lions finished near the bottom of the standings in the Southeast A, they do have some players that can make some noise.

Tailey Harris is one of the best scorers in the state as she averages 21.2 points a game on 44.2 percent shooting from the field. Delanee Casterline has also been cleaning up the boards for Lockwood this season as she averages 8.6 rebounds a contest. While Lockwwod will be a new opponent for Havre this season, Kraske believes they would give them everything they have in a potential matchup.

"They're a new program but they got young kids that play hard," Kraske said.

The Ponies are more familiar with Glendive who they swept in the regular season with an average margin of victory of 34.5 points. If there is a player on the Red Devils to watch out for, it would be Codi Nagle who leads the team with 11.2 points and 7.7 rebounds a game this year. As a team they have already faced this year, Kraske knows what to expect from the Devils.

"Glendive plays really hard," Kraske said "I really appreciate their coaches. They do a nice job over there."

While the Ponies are having a great season, there are several other teams in the tournament that could win the divisional title. Billings Central (15-3) enters the tournament after finishing atop the Southeast A standings in the regular season. The Rams are the only team to defeat the Ponies this season as they won, 55-54, in overtime back in December.

Some players that should give Havre trouble are Mya Hansen and Alaina Woods. Hansen leads the Rams averaging 17.8 points a game on 45.3 percent shooting. Woods is also making an impact with 7.0 points and a team-high 7.4 rebounds a game. Against Havre last December, Hansen scored 17 points while Woods contributed 12 points in the win.

If the Ponies win their first game of the tournament, they will most likely face Hardin (15-3) in the next game. The Ponies have already faced the Bulldogs this year as they swept them by an average margin of victory of 11.5 points. But the Ponies should not take the Bulldogs lightly.

Kamber Good Luck is having a strong year for the Bulldogs as she averages 16.7 points on 45.1 percent shooting. Kylee Old Elk is also playing well for Hardin with 10.7 points a game on 56.2 percent shooting.

The Ponies may also run into their Northeast A rivals such as Miles City (10-7), Lewistown (4-10) and Sidney (2-13) through the course of the tournament. The Ponies have fared well against these teams as they went 8-0 in the Northeast A this year. The Ponies could also run into Southeast A teams such as Laurel (11-7) and Livingston (0-14) this week.

As the Ponies begin the postseason, they will need their best players to continue playing well. Yelena Miller has had a strong year for Havre as she leads the team with 14.2 points and 7.3 rebounds a contest. Jade Wendland is also playing well for Havre as she is averaging 10.8 points a game on 36.5 percent shooting. But if the Ponies are going to do well this week, Kraske believes they will all need to do the small things correctly.

"I think the games will come down to the details of basketball. Simple things like passing with two hands, catching with two hands, rebounding, communicating on defense. It's all the stuff that you're working on every day that comes to light when teams are even," Kraske said. "Some teams down there are very even so it'll be fun. Our kids need to be focused and ready to go, which I would expect them to."

The Ponies begin the Eastern A Divisionals on Thursday at 1 p.m. against Lockwood or Glendive at the Metra in Billings.

 

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