Scobey celebrates its third-place trophy after defeating Hays-Lodge Pole at the 2017 Class C state basketball tournament. (RICHIE MELBY/MTN Sports)

By Alec Bofinger, for

BOZEMAN – Scobey claimed third place at the State C Boys tournament with a thrilling 74-72 victory over Hays-Lodgepole in the consolation final. Rallying from a 13-point second-half deficit, Scobey got two free throws from CJ Nelson with 17.5 seconds left to claim the hardware.

“It all started last year when we thought we had a chance to come here, but we fell short at divisionals in the first game,” said Nelson. “We have a bunch of seniors and they’re great players, great friends and people. It’s awesome.”

“I started off the season with a broken neck from football and it was hard,” Nelson continued, choking back tears. “It was hard for me to sit there and watch. It was very hard for me. When I finally went back for a checkup and the doctor said I could play if I got back in physical shape. That meant a lot and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without all these guys.”

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“It was really emotional,” added Peyton Nieskens. “I’m so happy for CJ and our team, words can’t describe it right now. The head coach is my stepdad and all we’ve been through, it’s just nuts.”

Early in the first half, Hays-Lodgepole’s Tyson and Jace Shambo controlled the game from the inside-out. Tyson was able to find Jace for a few easy buckets underneath as the Thunderbirds lead grew to double digits. Nelson had 15 for Scobey, but Hays-Lodgepole would carry a 43-32 lead into halftime.

Coming out of the break, Scobey’s Preston Baldry put the Spartans on his back. Baldry had 13 third-quarter points to spark the Spartans’ comeback. The third quarter saw Scobey outscore Hays-Lodgepole 25-13. Nieskins left his defender in the dust for an easy layup to give Scobey a 57-56 lead with 16 seconds to go in the frame, their first lead since 5-2.

“Ball pressure was the difference I thought, getting back to our basics and fundamentals,” said Nieskens. “I think that really helped us.”

The fourth quarter belonged to Nelson however. With the game hanging in the balance, he had 10 of his 28 points in the final period, including the two clutch free throws. Tyson Shambo had an opportunity to send the game to overtime at the buzzer, but his attempt would not go.

Nelson’s 28 points came on 8-13 shooting, as did Baldry’s 21 points. Hays-Lodgepole was led by Jace Shambo’s 21 points and Tyson Shambo’s 18 points, eight assists, and six rebounds.