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Ranked No. 1, young Scobey boys team ahead of schedule in return to Class C prominence

Scobey boys basketball.jpg
Posted at 10:30 AM, Jan 25, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-26 21:00:28-05

BILLINGS — As a sophomore, Braxton Wolfe was part of the Scobey High School boys basketball team that established a new state record by winning its 57th consecutive game.

That win, a 65-41 victory over Dodson on Dec. 18, 2021, was the continuation of a streak that began in 2019 and broke the previous mark of 56 set by Missoula Sentinel from 1962-65.

But three nights later the streak was snapped in a loss to Lustre Christian. It was the end of a tremendous ride for the program.

Now a senior, Wolfe is part of a Spartans squad that is trying to reclaim its place among Class C's elite. Entering Saturday's contest against Class B Wolf Point, Scobey is 12-0, ranked No. 1 in MTN Sports' Class C boys power rankings and eyeing a deep postseason run.

The Spartans look to be ahead of schedule — especially with three sophomores and one freshman in the starting lineup. But a winning culture has existed in Scobey for many years.

"I'd say my expectations coming in were pretty high this season after watching what we were doing in summer ball," Wolfe told MTN Sports. "We were just really sharing the ball well and our defense was really, really good. We were holding teams to 30 or less points."

It's translated into an unbeaten run so far this winter in spite of the youth movement. Wolfe is a veteran leader at point guard, and he is averaging 7.9 points through 12 games. But the Spartans are getting major contributions from the likes of sophomore forward Bram Handran and sophomore guard John Carney.

Handran is averaging 12.2 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game, while Carney is adding 13.0 points and 3.0 assists per night. Sophomore Cooper Axtman (8.3 ppg) and freshman Kolten Machart (8.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg) are also doing their part.

The players were confident entering the season. Longtime coach Jason Wolfe was too, but his expectations may have been tempered a bit, at least until he saw what he had working together on the floor.

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Scobey boys basketball coach Jason Wolfe, left, speaks with referee Randall Rice of Plentywood in a game during the 2023-24 season.

"It's a group of kids that really loves to play basketball," said Jason Wolfe, who according to the Daniels County Leader boasts a 349-110 overall record in 17-plus seasons leading Scobey. "They're in the gym all the time. They grew a little bit this past year and got a little bit stronger. They really surprised me that way.

"I felt like we would make a step forward this year but I still felt like we were probably a year away from, you know, being back as a state contender."

Another sophomore, Brekken Maher, contributes 5.7 points and 3.0 assists per game from the starting lineup.

"I think we've probably had four or five different leading scorers throughout the year, so we we mix it around pretty good," Jason Wolfe said. "You never really know from one game to the next who's going to be the the leading scorer. But (Handran and Carney) have been probably the most consistent scorers."

Handran is the younger brother of former Scobey star Caden Handran, who was a part of those Spartan teams that set the pace for 57 straight wins — including state titles in 2020 and 2021 — and later helped the College of Idaho win an NAIA national championship last March.

Caden Handran is now in his third season at C of I, and Bram is filling his older brother's shoes with the Spartans just fine. Machart and fellow Spartans Evan Tande and Reese Tande had an older brother on those previous title teams, as did Cam Cromwell.

Those guys had a front-row seat to their brothers' success in high school, and Bram Handran says the winning vibes are back in full force at Scobey this season.

"Last year we didn't do too well, at lot of injuries and stuff," said Bram, whose team missed out on the state tourney last season. "We kind of expected to be way better than last year. We just have to stay humble and know that we're good and play to our level."

Still, there will be roadblocks ahead. Statewide, Manhattan Christian is the two-time reigning Class C state champion, and "they don't ever go away," Jason Wolfe said. In the Eastern C, Savage and Plentywood are both having great seasons. In District 3C the Spartans must continue to contend with a strong Lustre Christian team.

"Certainly it's a well-balanced Class C this year, probably more so than it has been," Wolfe said. "It will be interesting to see how things play out here as we get down towards tournament time.

"There are some really good teams out there. We're well aware of who the leaders are in each division. As far as how we stack up against those teams, I guess we'll have to wait and see if we get that far and we're in that situation."

And to see if the young Spartans can reclaim the program's place among Class C's elite.