By Tiffany L. Rehbein
Its a classic Central A rivalry. The Havre Blue Ponies versus the Fergus County Golden Eagles. The similarities are striking.
The checklist applies to both Central A teams. A 3-1 record. A run for a State A seed. Good quickness up front. Full-court pressure defense. Advancement to the State A tournament last season.
Thursday, the Blue Pony Corral will be alive with full-court defensive pressure and an up-tempo offense.
I believe that if we can handle their press and get into a half-court situation well be all right, head coach Dennis Murphy said.
The Blue Ponies, 3-1, are coming off a weekend of wins over District 1-B Fort Benton and District 2-B Glasgow.
Murphy said he was pleased with the way his players, especially his younger girls, stepped up in the overtime win over Glasgow Saturday.
Sophomore Jeri Matter, the youngest and tallest Blue Pony starter, at 5-foot-10, netted six points and grabbed six rebounds in the win. She did not even suit up last year, as a freshman, against the Golden Eagles.
Juniors Nikki Baltrusch and Alyssa Matter, both of whom are coming off a strong weekend and both of whom have seen the Golden Eagles in head-to-head action, look to push the ball and pose as defensive, full-court pressure threats.
Baltrusch sparked the Ponies in the first half last weekend by nailing two three-pointers against Glasgow and finished with a season-high 11 points. She collected eight assists in the victory.
Alyssa Matter, who is stepping into a floor leader position, had a team-high seven rebounds in the overtime win.
Seniors Erin Patera and Tiffany Shrauger will again look to lead the Ponies on both ends of the floor.
Patera, the only returning starter from last years squad, sat out most of Friday nights game in foul trouble, but played well against Glasgow. Defensively, she had five steals in the match-up.
Shrauger has had the hot hand thus far for the Ponies, tallying team-high points in three-of-four games. Against Fort Benton, in the final minutes, Shrauger hit 6-of-8 free shots from the line.
But even scoring throughout the team has kept the Ponies in contention.
Were going to be pretty difficult to play with five-to-six people scoring, Murphy said.
Junior Samatha Velk and sophomores Amy Ranes and Jayla McPherson have each stepped off the bench to spark the Ponies throughout the season.
Last season, the Blue Ponies split with the Golden Eagles. When the two teams met at Havre, the Ponies came out victorious, 55-49.
In 1998 at Lewistown, the Golden Eagles handed Havre its first loss of the season by tripping them up in an overtime victory, 53-47.
But that was last season, and that was a game termed as a learning experience for two girls, Alyssa Matter and Baltrusch. Those two girls, this year, are leaders.
Lewistown, 3-1, split last weekend. The Golden Eagles fell to Class B Malta Thursday, 66-44. Saturday, they went on to down Central A Livingston 56-53.
Lewistowns Cassie Chapman poses an inside problem for the Blue Ponies. Chapman led the Golden Eagles with 15 points against Malta and 16 points against Livingston.
Jamie Slagel tallied 11 points and Kristin Hagen chipped in 10 in the win.
Theyre very well coached, Murphy said. Theyre strong inside with a very fine post player (Chapman). On the perimeter, theyre hot and cold. They shoot a lot better at home than on the road.
The Blue Ponies are not going to stray from their game plan. The full-court press is creating turnovers and the penetration offense, in constant re-working, is creating shots across the floor.
Were not going to back down from what weve been doing, Murphy said.
The frosh will play at the middle school at 3:45 p.m., JV at the high school at 5:45 and the varsity will tip-off at 7:30 p.m.