After a road trip last weekend, the Havre High boys ‘and girls’ basketball teams will return tonight to the friendly confines of Havre High Gymnasium where they will play a doubleheader against Malta. While home should be an easier place to play, the two Maltese basketball teams should still provide a battle.
“It’s going to be a tough battle and we’re going to have to play well to get a chance. It’s not just where you walk into the gym and it’s an easy walk,” said HHS boys head coach Walynn Burgess. “After a long road trip like the one we just went through, it will be a test for these boys to see what they are made of and we are excited for that opportunity to see where they are.”
The HHS boys played an exciting game against the Mustangs earlier this season when they played Malta back in December. After the Ponies had an early lead, the Mustangs took control as they were in the lead, 39-29, with just over two and a half minutes left in the game.
In the final minutes of the game, the Ponies went on an 11-0 run to return to victory. Josh Currie was strong on the run as he scored nine points during it, including the 3-pointer to take the lead with 3.5 seconds left. With their comeback against Malta earlier this year, Burgess hopes his team has cleared that their defensive intensity is key to victory.
“We can shoot badly and still be in the game if we rely on our defense,” Burgess said. “Two things you can control are your attitude and your effort. I felt like they did a pretty good job of controlling both things in that game that gave us a chance to win the game.”
Mustangs should provide another hard test in the rematch. The Mustangs are now 6-4 in the season and have several players who could give Havre trouble. Connor Tuss will look to play well again as he scored 18 points earlier this season against Havre. But Burgess believes the depth and growth of the Mustangs this season could give the Ponies some trouble.
“They got a few young kids who have been growing up and got a lot of time on a varsity court. I don’t consider them freshmen anymore after having played so many games so far this season,” Burgess said. “It’s a good game. Whenever we ever play Havre against Malta, we know it’s going to be a rivalry game and we appreciate the challenge.”
If they are to last longer than the Mustangs, the Ponies will need their best players to re-intensify. Currie will look for a repeat of his performance against Malta as he scored 19 points in the victory. Xavier Butler will also look to make an impact again as he scores 10 points. Caden Jenkins will try to keep things on the offensive as he leads the Ponies with an average of 10.4 game points this season.
The HHS girls basketball team also played in Malta earlier this season, a game the Ponies won 43-40. The Ponies had a strong start to the game as they arrived, 23-10, at the end of the first quarter. But the M-Ettes slowed down and even took the lead in the fourth. The Ponies were able to recover to win the game, but HHS girls head coach Dustin Kraske hopes to see a more complete performance this time against the M-Ettes.
“We started the game incredibly well and finished the game incredibly well and then we switched between them, we have to fix it because we lost our enthusiasm,” Kraske said. “We need to be able to keep our enthusiasm going for 32 minutes.”
LM-Ettes will need to continue their offense if they want revenge against the Ponies. In their previous fight, the M-Ettes had a balanced attack as Allison Kunze, Addy Anderson and Kylee Nelson scored 10 points each in the competitive game. If the Ponies don’t get their ‘A’ game tonight, the M-Ettes take advantage.
“Malta is incredibly well coached,” said Kraske. “Those young people play hard, play very well together and are not afraid of anything.”
The Ponies have won eight games in a row thanks to several strong performances. Yelena Miller is averaging 12 points per game this season and led the Ponies by 14 points against Malta earlier this year. Avery Carlson is also playing well with 11.4 points this year and will look to make an impact again after scoring 11 points against Malta back in December.
After their trips against the conference opponents, the two teams look forward to returning home and having a chance to compete in front of friends and family. In an easier environment, they hope to use that energy to play well.
“It’s different to play at home,” Burgess said. “It’s nice to come back and come back to the confines of the coral house and have the crowd cheering for you.”
HHS girls tonight will play against Malta at HHS Gymnasium at 6 pm HHS boys basketball will be followed by a game against Malta at 7:30 pm.