BILLINGS -- For the first time ever -- in more than 60 years -- the basketball men at Dawson Community College will host their regional tournament this weekend. That's after punching out a perfect 14-0 mark in league play to run away with the regular-season title.
It's a team loaded with Montana players. You may remember one of them for an unforgettable senior moment two years ago at Montana's Class C boys basketball state tournament in Butte.
Scobey's CJ Nelson didn't hit the shot, but he fired what would be the game-winning pass.
"Honestly, right away I thought I threw it out of bounds," Nelson recently recalled to MTN Sports. "I thought I threw it too far."
He's referring to the opening-round buzzer beater to knock off Brody Grebe and previously unbeaten Melstone. The whole play was set up by chaos.
Moments earlier, Grebe had driven to the basket and drawn a foul with 1.3 seconds left. He made the first to give Melstone a 43-42 lead. Out of a timeout, Grebe intentionally missed the second free throw thinking time would expire before Scobey had a chance at a full-court prayer. Nelson rebounded and launched a desperation miss from 90 feet. Ballgame.
Except, an inadvertent horn sounded when Grebe’s free throw hit the rim. Officials ruled Scobey ball with one second left. And Nelson, the senior, naturally wanted the ball.
"I thought my involvement was supposed to be shooting the ball," he said, "... but coaches said no, I have to throw it, so."
So, he grudgingly wound up and fired a three-quarter-court pass into the outstretched arms of 6-foot-3 freshman Caden Handran, who buried a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer sending the Butte Civic Center crowd into a frenzy.
"When the kid shot it, to be honest, I did not think it was in," Nelson said. "I saw it go ... the angle and everything, and was like, 'Oh no, it's over.'"
It was over, alright -- 45-43 Scobey, though Melstone would win the rematch to claim third place.
Fast forward two years, almost to the day, and Nelson is now a captain at Dawson Community College in Glendive.
The Scobey sophomore has never missed a game in his JUCO career and, according to coach Joe Peterson, is the heart and soul of this year's dominant top-seeded regional team. Nelson routinely guards the opposition's top player, leads the Buccaneers in drawn charges and loose ball scrambles. And, as Peterson adds, floor burns.
As for how many times he's watched his high school senior moment on replay?
"Probably a thousand, honestly, or more," Nelson said shaking his head in wonder.