By George Ferguson and Harvey Brock /Havre Daily News Sports
On Saturday night in Great Falls, the Havre High boys basketball team tasted defeat for the first time this season. The loss was bitter and meant the Ponies won't be able to bring back the famed Ole Goat Trophy for yet another season.
The Ponies fell victim to a 22-6 run by the GFH Bison in the last 5:32 of the game, and the Bison kept possession of the Ole Goat with a 68-51 nonconference win at the Bison Fieldhouse.
Despite the large final margin, the Ponies were trailing by just four points when the Bison made their final push that put the game away. Shawn Tatarka started the run off with a three-pointer, and despite 20 lead changes in the contest, GFH would never trail again.
"They just made more plays than we did down the stretch," said HHS head coach John Barnhorst. "GFH executed really well at the end of the game and we didn't."
Tatarka and Bobby Howard scored 19 points apiece to lead the Bison. Most of Tatarka's efforts came in the closing stretch. The Bison had no other players in double figures, but Barnhorst said that he thinks they have a very good club and it showed at the end of the contest.
"GFH has a really nice team," he said. "We thought coming into this game that we had a very good chance of beating them, but they played well in important situations, and I thought we were a little flat on both ends of the floor."
Jared Weigel led Havre with 15 points, but fouled out of the contest at about the same time that the Bison started their fourth-quarter run. Ty Hedalen scored 13 points and Marc Mariani chipped in with nine.
The loss drops Havre's record to 4-1 on the season. Even though Barnhorst was disappointed, he said that the last five minutes of the game was good experience for his team.
"We'll definitely learn from this loss," Barnhorst said. "It was good that we were in a situation where we had to execute down the stretch, and even though we didn't do it, it was a good learning experience for our team."
Havre 64, Browning 45
During the recent state championship football season, all-state receiver Marc Mariani was the recipient of many scoring passes. Mariani assumed the role of quarterback in leading the Havre High boys basketball team to a 64-45 victory over the Browning Indians at Havre High gymnasium.
Mariani, directing Havre's offense, found 6-5 senior post Ty Hedalen early and often with pinpoint passes to pace the Blue Ponies with four quick buckets, and Havre jumped out to a 15-10 lead after the first period. Hedalen led all scorers with 26 points.
But it wasn't just offense that led Havre. The Ponies' defense came up strong. Havre used a stingy pressure-packed man-to-man defense to force the Browning Indians into 17 first-half turnovers.
The visiting Indians didn't get a shot off for the first three minutes of the game, while Havre converted the Browning turnovers into easy baskets for a big lead. The Ponies built on their lead, leaving the game all but decided at the end of the first half.
"We know Browning likes to run, but we think we can run with anybody," Mariani said. "Our pressure defense allows us to score on the other end. We let our defense create our offense with steals and turnovers that lead to layups and easy baskets. I thought we did that really well in the first half, and not so well in the second half."
Coach Barnhorst went deep in his bench, playing nine players in the first half to maintain intense full-court man-to-man defensive pressure. The Ponies turned up their defensive intensity to a new level in the second period, outscoring Browning 19-2 to lead to a 34-12 score at the end of the first half.
"We played very good in the first half and outstanding in the second period both offensively and defensively," Barnhorst said. "Then we kind of just maintained it from there."
Trailing by 22, Browning, led by seniors Andrew Sellers and Jared Wolf Trail, tried to whittle away at the Pony lead in the second half. The Indians played the Ponies closer after intermission, but never really threatened in the game.
Besides Hedalen's big game, Havre got 11 points from Gary Wagner and eight points from Mariani.
Browning was led by Sellers' 16 points.
"We played well at times," Barnhorst said. "Ty Hedalen and our big people ran the floor very well. I would like to see us finish the game a little better. We're still just a little out of sync, and our timing is just off, but it is still early. Browning deserves some credit. They could have quit at the end of the first half, but they didn't and played better in the second half."
Havre is off until Jan. 6, when it begins the 2005 portion of its schedule against CMR.
Browning 10 12 30 45 - 45
Havre 15 34 51 64 - 64
Browning - R. Augare 11, N. Many Hydes 2, S. Rainingbird 6, A. Sellers 16, T. Running Crane 2, J. Wolftail 8. Totals: 18 7-15 45.
Havre - Patch Wirtzberger 2, Marc Mariani 8, Gary Wagner 11, Jared Weigel 5, Tyson Parman 6, Ty Hedalen 26, Mike Barton 6. Totals: 26 10-18 64.
Three-point goals - HHS (Mariani, Wagner), BRO (Augare, Sellers). Total Fouls - BRO 16, HAV 14. Fouled out - Rainingbird.
Havre 18 13 10 10 - 51
Great Falls 19 12 11 26 - 68
Havre - Marc Mariani 9, Gary Wagner 7, Jared Weigel 15, Ty Hedalen 13, Patch Wirtzberger 2, Mike Barton 2, Jeremy Giardina 3. Totals: 17-43 12-20 51.
GFH - Shaun Tatarka 19, Tony Bistodeau 6, Dan Mathes 7, Bobby Howard 19, Eric Chaon 7, Derek Dowson 6, Kurt Bosley 2, Kyle Wheatley 2. Totals: 22-46 20-26 68.