Malta came to Havre on Tuesday night, and gave the Havre High boys basketball team a tough night at home.
The Central A Blue Ponies hosted the Class B Mustangs at the Havre High gymnasium, but suffered a severe loss to the defending Class B state champions. Malta defeated Havre 59-30 as the Ponies overall record dropped to 3-11.
Havre couldn’t get into a groove on offense all night long, and the Ponies had a well-executed Malta defense to thank for it.
“Malta put a lot of on ball pressure on a single individual,” Havre High head coach Curt Leeds said. “And when you do that you have to have the four other guys doing something to get open. And we weren’t doing anything to get open, no screening or no execution. We have to help out the guy with the, and a lot of times it isn’t the ball handlers fault when we turn the ball over, it is the other guys watching him.”
The Ponies had 22 turnovers on the night. The Mustang defense came out in a full-court press against the Ponies. Malta would press the inbounds pass nearly every HHS possession, and as soon as the Ponies hit half court, the Mustangs turned up the heat. They trapped the ball at midcourt and forced the Ponies to make a lot of poor passes, creating Pony turnovers, and Mustang points in transition. The Ponies looked out of rhythm all night long, even when they did beat the press. The Ponies were taking contested and low percentage shots, when coach Leeds said he would have rather his team slow down and make the Malta defense work after beating the press.
“We are everywhere,” Malta’s senior guard Kendall Denham said. “We come from behind, and if you think you have us beat, you don’t. Kaden Bedwell can come from behind and scoop it from you, and we are already heading in the other direction. We trap everywhere, and we mix up our defensive pressure from team to team, but tonight we knew we could play especially hard in our half court and get them in situations they didn’t want to be in.”
HHS only scored 13 points in the first half before finishing the game with 30. Kade Rismon did find some wiggle room in the second half, scoring nine of his team leading 11 points in the third and fourth quarters. Thurman Holdsaclaw followed with six points, while Dane Warp was held to just three points. Nate Rismon and Ramsey Drew combined for another eight points. The Ponies also shot just 11-of-30 from the field Tuesday night.
Havre did show signs of life on the defensive end, but the Ponies couldn’t keep the Mustangs from lighting up the scoreboard for long periods of time. The Mustangs have too many offensive weapons, and they proved they can get scoring from all over the lineup. The Ponies started in a zone look, but gave up 18 in the opening frame. HHS switched to their man look and looked better, but it just wasn’t enough.
“We are more of a man defense team,” Leeds said. “But I thought I could slow them down with our zone. But when we switched to our man, I thought that we executed our defense very well. In the second half we were mentally tired more than we were physically tired. It has been a long haul these last few weeks and we have played a lot of good teams. But we need to start leaning on each other more, rather than holding ourselves up. Good teams do that.”
Denham finished the game with 15 after eight quick points in the first quarter, but Tucker Schye led the way in the paint with his game-high 20. Zach Handlery also scored 14 for the Mustangs.
“This win means a lot to us,” Denham said. “We can’t look past any team. We did that last year and lost to Glasgow on semifinal night at districts, and that really opened our eyes.
“If a team comes out and tries to stop me or Zach (Handley),” Denham added. “We have Tucker Schye down low, and I don’t think anybody can stop him. He
is too strong with his upper body, but if somehow they do stop him, we have guys that can come in off the bench and score too.”
The Ponies dropped to 3-11 on the season, but get right back into action this weekend. With two more games, the Ponies will face Lewistown on the road on Friday, and will host Shelby on Saturday at 5 p.m.
Malta 59, Havre 30
Malta 18 13 15 13 – 59
Havre 8 5 10 7 – 30
Malta – Kendall Denham 15, Kaden Bedwell 2, Zach Handley 14, Zach Czereda 3, Nathan Veit 2, Tate Carney 3, Tucker Schye 20.
Havre – Dane Warp 3, Nate Rismon 4, Ramsey Drew 4, Thurman Holdsclaw 6, Kade Rismon 11, Jase Kato 2.