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New-look Lewistown trying to overcome departures, injuries to improve throughout boys basketball season

Lewistown boys
Posted at 4:03 PM, Dec 14, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-14 18:03:06-05

FRENCHTOWN — Every team undergoes roster changes from one season to the next.

But reigning Class A boys basketball state champion Lewistown has taken that to the extreme.

The Golden Eagles graduated four seniors from last year’s title-winning squad. Then star Fischer Brown left the program to play his final high school season at Wasatch Academy in Utah.

And then, after the football team made a deep run to the semifinal round of the state playoffs, injuries nearly depleted Lewistown’s varsity basketball roster.

“We have a lot of injuries, so we’re just trying to play a bunch of new guys and get everyone to mesh together,” senior Jordan Jensen said before the Eagles' game with Butte Central at the Western A Tip-Off Tournament. Jensen was also an all-state offensive and defensive lineman on the football team. “We’re just playing as hard as we can, trying to get all of our guys back.”

Seniors Tate Mangold, Kieran Netburn, Maxx Ray and Wylee Snapp are all sidelined with injuries with varying timelines for their returns.

Until then, coach Scott Sparks and the Eagles will tinker with lineups and rotations to make the most of a challenging early season slate.

“We’re just trying to take this time to get better individually, just play together and mesh with other guys we haven’t played with,” said Trajan Sparks, the coach’s senior son. “That way in the long run everything works out.”

Lewistown has qualified for the state tournament each of the past three seasons. The Eagles lost to Butte Central in the 2022 championship game before completing a 24-0 season last year en route to the program's first title since 1979.

Though this season has gotten off to a rocky start with the Eagles losing their first three games, it’s a group that knows how to win and is trusting the process.

“We know it might be hard at some times,” said Brody Jenness, another senior who was also an all-state football player. “But we know what it takes to be a winning team, and we know we've got to just work as hard as we can every play.”

“It can help us deal with adversity because there’s going to be ups and downs,” Trajan Sparks added. “We've got to learn to play from behind and learn to play together and just play as more than just us (as individuals) and play as a team.”

That mentality figures to help the Eagles as the season progresses and players return from injuries. The hope is the added depth and experience will give them more versatility as the regular season winds down and turns into tournament time come February.

“We have been very successful,” Jenness said. “Just that taste of it is just the best feeling in the world, so we just want to get there every day.”

“We expect to have a great season and play as hard as we can, and if we give it our all, then that’s all that really matters," Jensen said. "That’s all we’re looking for.”