GREAT FALLS – Havre’s girls have gone back-to-back.
The Blue Ponies defeated Hardin, 42-36, on Saturday in the championship game of the State A girls basketball tournament at Pacific Steel & Recycling Four Seasons Arena.
“Congratulations to (Hardin head coach) Cindy Farmer. Hardin Bulldogs (are) a class program, hell of a team. We’re fortunate to beat them. Two in a row? Feels unbelievable. Unbelievable. Just totally impressive,” Havre head coach Dustin Kraske said.
“I can’t even explain it,” Havre junior Kyndall Keller said of the back-to-back titles. “I just love basketball. We did it with the girls we love and I just can’t believe it really. … I’ve never experienced anything like this. I don’t know how to explain it.”
Havre’s defense made the difference in a tight game down the stretch, as the Blue Ponies held Hardin without a single made field goal from the 3:30 mark of the third quarter until there were less than 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
“No kidding?” Kraske said of the drought Havre caused. “Hearing that news, it never gets old. That’s impressive. Our kids, they sure buckled down. They believed in each other and kind of what our plan was and did a good job.”
“We just couldn’t finish a lot of baskets. They were able to hit those couple 3s. We just didn’t execute on offense and finish baskets. … We need to be more poised and controlled and execute,” Farmer said. “We knew that every possession was going to matter. There wasn’t going to be too big of a lead. Going in at halftime tied, we felt pretty good about that. Then like I said, they got those couple baskets and we had a hard time responding to it.”
On the offensive end, Keller willed Havre to victory, scoring 16 of her 17 points in the second half. Freshman Sadie Filius had a huge contribution in the second half, too, scoring seven points, including a big 3-pointer to open the fourth quarter that pushed Havre’s lead to eight, 35-27.
Havre made just one shot, Filius’ 3, in the fourth quarter, but Keller Made 6 of 8 from the foul line to keep Hardin at bay.
“I think (Keller’s) teammates did a good job creating for her and that helped a little bit. … I couldn’t be more proud of our kids. I think it showed the resiliency of the whole bunch. Yes, (Keller) is a wonderful player, but she has a wonderful team around her,” Kraske said.
Keller led all scorers with 17 points, making 9 of 14 attempts from the free throw line and a pair of key triples in the third quarter to finally give Havre some distance from Hardin and get the offense rolling. Filius had 13 points and seven rebounds. Marie Five had a double-double for Hardin, scoring 13 points and grabbing 13 rebounds.
Both teams struggled from the field, as Havre shot just 10 of 40 (25 percent) and Hardin shot 12 of 49 (24.5 percent). Hardin also made only one 3-point shot, whereas Havre hit 5 of 12 from beyond the arc. Hardin out-rebounded Havre 40-28, including 16 offensive boards, but that only translated to nine second-chance points, as the Bulldogs struggled to convert several close looks in the fourth quarter.