LEWISTOWN – Scott Sparks is right at home as head coach of the Lewistown boys basketball team. After a few seasons coaching in Denton, Sparks felt the time was right to return to his alma mater.
“It’s nice (to be home). Even coaching out in Denton, I lived (in Lewistown), so I was still a big part of the town.” Sparks said. “It’s always nice to go home, but you want to make sure you do it at the right time. For me, being away for a while and being in a great community like Denton where I thought I got a chance to really improve myself as a coach was great. But this last opportunity came up where I could come back to Lewistown and be closer to my kids, be a part of a talented group coming up, everything felt right and it feels good to be back home.”
Sparks and the Lewistown boys didn’t have the start to the season they envisioned. The Eagles struggled in conference play early in the season, but they’ve strung wins together at the right time.
They knocked off Belgrade to set up a showdown at home with Livingston that would decide the regular season conference champion. The Eagles blew out Livingston to wrap up the conference’s top seed heading into the Eastern A divisional tournament.
“We played a majority of our schedule in the first half of the season on the road. We finally were able to get home, play some home games, and sometimes just having a few home games in a row is enough to get your shooting going, and that’s kind of what happened with us.
“We play a lot of juniors, some of them didn’t have varsity playing time last year. It’s taken a little bit of time to get the chemistry right. I think it’s just one of those things where it took a little bit of time for us to gel, and over the last three weeks we’ve played some of our best basketball.”
Sparks inherited a talented, young core of players, led by Jaden Graham and Tanner Trafton.
“Of the top 10 kids we play, eight are Juniors. We’ve got a pretty good core coming back next year as well. If they’re willing to keep putting the time in and play well the rest of the season, we have the potential to finish this season strong and build on that into next year.”
Lewistown has not appeared at the Class A state tournament since 2002, a streak that can be snapped if the Eagles place in the top four at this weekend’s Eastern A divisional.
“It’s been a long draught. It’s not like we haven’t had good coaches or good kids, we’ve just never been able to get that right mix of kids to get over the hump. I think the team we have with us now and into the future is a crew that at least gives us a chance year-in and year-out to at least get there. If we can get it done this year and get to the state tournament, it sets us up for many future years of success.”
The Eagles took a step towards the state tournament with a first round win over Glendive, setting up a rematch with Belgrade Friday night for a spot in the Eastern A divisional championship game.