Chris Peterson Havre Daily News email@example.com
At a critical juncture of the season, the Havre High girls basketball team played some championship style defense to wrap up the Central A Conference regular season title. After knocking off Lewistown Friday night in Lewistown, all the Blue Ponies needed to do to wrap up the Central A regular season title, as well as the top seed and the first round bye in the Central A divisional tournament, was defeat Butte Central. But Havre, which easily defeated the Maroons in Butte during the first meeting between the two teams, would have their hands full with a scrappy Maroon team that was looking to play spoiler. Despite a pair of long field goal droughts, Havre managed to sneak out a 45-39 win over the Maroons Saturday at the HHS gymnasium. The Ponies got off to a blazing start, opening the game on an 11-2 run that was capped off with a layup by Katie Mariani with 3:51 left in the first quarter. However, the Maroons defense stiffened and they went on a 11-1 run to take a 13-12 lead which was capped with a free throw by Hannah Manion, while the Ponies went 8:51 without a field goal. Mariani ended the drought with a 3-pointer at the 3:00 mark of the second quarter to give Havre a 15-13 advantage. Butte Central tied the game at 19-19 on a basket by Lexie Murphy with 1:06 left in the first half, but the Ponies regained the lead on a three by Tricia Samson to go into halftime ahead 22-18. Trailing 24-18, Manion converted on a three-point play to make the score 24-21, but Havre went on a 7-0 run and took a 31-21 lead on a layup by Mariani with 6:09 left in the third. But Havre had another long field goal drought, this one lasting for 8:03 seconds. During that drought, the Mroons went on a 12-3 run, which was highlighted by a Quinn Peoples' 3-pointer. Following a free throw by Brooke Pokorny Havre’s lead was down to one at 34-33 with 6:45 left in the game. “I thought their defense did a great job of preventing us from shooting our shots,” HHS head coach Dustin Kraske said. “Then we were forced to take some different shots that we weren’t used to.” Steph Stremcha answered with a layup to give Havre a 36-33 lead, then the Ponies iced the game by hitting on seven of eight free throw attempts in the final four minutes. Stremcha led the Ponies with a game-high 17 points. Mariani added 13 points and Samson also pitched in with 10 points. Pokorny was the high scorer for the Maroons with 11 points. Manion also contributed with 10 points. “At the end of the game, our defense made some big stops and forced them to turn it over,” Kraske said. "Butte Central is a tough team, they are very scrappy. They should be proud of how they played.” On Friday night, the Ponies traveled to Lewistown to do battle with the second-place team in the Central A conference. The HHS defense dominated the Eagles all night long, but Havre also had its struggles offensively in the first half, so at halftime the Pony lead was only 21-11. But Havre outscored Lewistown 16-9 in the third quarter to blow the game open, then hung on for an easy 49-28 victory. The Ponies didn’t allow Lewistown to score 10 points in any of the four quarters. “Our team defense was at the top of its game,” Kraske said. “Sweeney is a great player and we held her to only 10 points. Stacey Sheppard did a great job with the help of her teammates. Stremcha had an enormous game offensively, scoring a game-high 20 points in the win for Havre. Sarah Blessum added nine points and Mariani pitched in with seven. Josie Sweeney led the Eagles with 10 points. Their second-leading scorer, Jamie Descheemaeker, was held to just four points. The two victories improved Havre’s record to 10-5 overall as well as 8-1 conference play. The Ponies will visit Malta on Tuesday night, and they will play their final home game Friday against Cut Bank.