By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sportsemail@example.com
For a brief moment on Saturday night, it looked like the Havre High girls basketball team might well be on its way to dropping its third straight game. But something happened to the Ponies at halftime, and in the second half they raced past the Browning Lady Indians for a 56-44 Central A conference win at the Havre High gymnasium.
The Ponies trailed Browning 30-21 at halftime, but turned things around in the second half, outscoring Browning 35-14 the rest of the way. During the final 16 minutes of the game, Havre reeled off a 21-6 run that all but ended the Lady Indians hopes of escaping Havre with a victory. Blue Pony head coach Jason Wirt credited his teams' defense in the second half for getting things turned around.
"The big thing was we stopped giving them easy transition baskets," Wirt said. "We also started playing much more aggressively on the offensive end of the floor. We started getting to the basket and getting to the free-throw line. We just played much more like we are capable of playing in the second half."
Browning took control of the game late in the first quarter, albeit after a very unfortunate incident. Browning guard Loris Whiteman collided with center Bobbi Woodworth while going for a loose ball. Whiteman had to be taken to Northern Montana Hospital to be treated for a large cut on her face and Woodworth played sparingly the rest of the game.
At the point of the accident, Havre was leading 9-8. Following the delay, Misty Tatsey came off the bench and drilled a three-pointer that sparked the Lady Indians on a run that would ultimately give them their nine-point lead at halftime.
While Browning's offense got on track at that point, Havre's went into hibernation for the rest of the first half. Whitney Barnekoff gave the Ponies their 9-8 lead at the 3:30 mark of the first period and the Ponies would not score again until the 5:01 mark of the second quarter.
Despite all of the momentum that Browning built going into halftime, the Indians were still forced to play on without two of their top players. In the end, Wirt said, the situation hurt the Lady Indians in the second half.
"I think losing Whiteman really hurt them," Wirt said. "She is one of their leading scorers this season, and she was shooting the ball pretty well at the beginning of the game."
In the second half, it didn't take the Ponies long to take back the contest. Senior guard Amy McLain got Havre off and running when she nailed a three-pointer to open the third quarter. Seconds later, Barnekoff also hit a three. In the next two minutes, the Ponies would regain the lead and never relinquish it the rest of the night.
The Ponies went on an 8-0 run to end the third quarter to give them even more of a cushion heading into the final period. That three-minute stretch of good play was sparked by juniors Alexa Lipp and Kelsey Evans. Evans opened the fourth quarter with a three-pointer to push Havre's lead to 46-38. Later, Justine Erhard nailed a trey that gave the Ponies an insurmountable double-digit lead.
"Kelsey Evans and Alexa Lipp both came in and gave us great minutes in the second half," Wirt said. "Kelsey played great, and she really led the charge for us in the third and fourth quarter tonight."
Besides an outstanding second-half defensive performance, Havre also benefited from strong offensive nights from almost the entire team. Havre's balanced scoring attack was paced by Steph Flatau's game-high 13 points. McLain scored 12 points and Lipp poured in 10 off the bench. Barnekoff also gave the Ponies nine points on the night.
"I think we just played much better offensively in the second half," Wirt said. "Justine shot the ball with a lot of confidence and everyone gave us great minutes when they were in there. It was a very solid effort by our team in the second half."
Browning struggled home without Whiteman and the inside presence of Woodworth. They also struggled with foul trouble throughout the second half. The Lady Indians did not have a scorer in double figures, but Joena Eaglefeathers did give them nine points off the bench. Star guard Jenna Skunkcap was held to just seven points.
"I thought everybody that guarded Skunkcap did a great job on her," Wirt said. "Keelie (Solomon) and Alexa both came off of the bench and did a great job on her when they were matched up with her."
The win over Browning ends Havre's two-game slide, but more importantly pushes its record to 2-1 in Central A conference play. The Ponies are 3-2 overall and Wirt said that Saturday night's win did a lot for the psyche of his team.
"The big thing is this gives us some confidence back," Wirt said. "It also shows the resiliency of our kids to bounce back after the loss to GFH."
Havre will close out the 2004 portion of its schedule on the road Tuesday night when the Ponies travel to Great Falls to take on the CMR Lady Rustlers. That game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. at the CMR Fieldhouse.
Browning 11 19 8 6 - 44
Havre 9 12 21 14 - 56
Browning - Joena Eaglefeathers 9, Loris Whiteman 6, Misty Tatsey 6, Teresa Kennerly 2, Jenna Skunkcap 7, Kendall Edmo 5, Phyllis Kipp 1, Erica Edwards 7. Totals: 13-3 9-13.
Havre - Amy McLain 12, Steph Flatau 13, Kelsey Evans 3, Alexa Lipp 10, Justine Erhard 6, Keelie Solomon 3, Whitney Barnekoff 9. Totals: 16-5 9-23.
Three-point goals - Havre 5 (McLain, Evans, Erhard 2, Barnekoff), Browning 3 (Tatsey, Edmo, Eaglefeathers). Total fouls - Browning 23, Havre 16. Fouled out - none.
Havre JV 43, Browning JV 39
Havre - Erika Briese 1, Kelsey Evans 9, Keelie Solomon 4, Katie Mariani 12, Steph Stremcha 6, Lena Suek 9, Tricia Samson 2.
Havre (Frosh) 37, Browning (Frosh) 27
Havre - Tricia Samson 10, Louise Briere 8, Stacey Sheppard 3, Chelsea Harper 6, Danika Patterson 8, Tanya Westbrook 1, Linsey Waid 1.