In the final weekend of the regular season, both the Havre high girls and boys basketball teams have a lot to play for.
Both Central A Blue Pony squads will face off against two very talented Browning Indians teams, in two conference showdowns to end the regular season action. The No. 3 HHS boys (2-5) will host the No. 1 Indians (6-1) at Havre Central in Havre Saturday, while the HHS girls (6-1) will face the Indians (6-1) on the road in Browning tonight.
The regular season finale for the boys holds a lot of importance for Havre.
There is currently a three-way tie for third place, with Havre, Livingston, and Lewistown sitting at 2-5 in league play. Both Browning and Belgrade are at the top of the conference at 6-1, but if the Ponies win they can play the spoilers. A win can give the Ponies a No. 3 finish and the Indians a No. 2 finish, while a loss could give the Indians the top seed, while the Ponies could plummet all the way to No. 4 or even No. 5.
Either way, the Ponies will run into the Indians at the divisional tournament, making this an important game, win or lose.
“Getting a win over them,” Havre High head coach Curt Leeds said. “Right before having to play them again would give us a lot of confidence. But playing well will show us that we can play with them and that will give the boys a lot of confidence too.”
The Indians defeated the Ponies 77-60 in early January. But on senior night, at a smaller, more compact Central gym, the Ponies are hoping they can slow down the Indians. Ramsey Drew and Thurman Holdsclaw are the two seniors playing in their home finale, and will be crucial in succeeding over the Indians.
“It is a smaller court,” Leeds said. “And I think it will be a fun atmosphere. It will be loud and Browning will bring a lot of fans. It will limit Browning’s transition game, but it will help their press and trap.
“Thurman contributes in so many ways” Leeds added. “He gets us boards and can defend the oppositions best player, he is a great athlete. And Ramsey has worked so hard for us and shoots a great percentage. They contribute a lot for us.”
Drew and Holdsclaw will be key, but so will Nate Rismon, Kade Rismon, and Dane Warp, as the Ponies hope to slow down the Browning offense, while also trying to execute their own.
In girls action, the Ponies also have a lot to play for.
Browning took down the Ponies 57-44 in Havre earlier in the season, but need a win in Browning. A win will give the Ponies a second straight regular season title, while a loss will result in a No. 2 finish behind the Indians.
“The winner wins the league,” Havre High head coach Dustin Kraske said. “We have to handle playing on the road in a nice environment. It is Browning’s friends and family night, which will be awesome, a great crowd. Our kids have to match the enthusiasm, and it is going to come down to two things, defensive rebounding and taking care of the basketball.”
Kraske said that in the first meeting the Indians snatched 25 defensive rebounds, which led to 20 points. They also scored 10 points on two on one, ore one on zero fast break layups. If the Ponies can limit that and play well, the Ponies have a very good shot at reclaiming their title.
Not only will Neya Bishcoff be looked at to board, but her guards will also have to step up. Brandy Lambourne, Peyton Filius, Morgan Mazurkiewicz, Tori Mazurkiewicz and Lacey Waid have to score on offense, but they also have to step up and rebound very soundly on defense.
“Everybody has to rebound,” Kraske said. “Find your man and box out. That is as simple as we can make this.”
The HHS boys will host Browning at Havre Central Saturday at 5 p.m.