BUTTE – The basketball gods were on Scobey’s side Thursday.
The Spartans got an assist from an inadvertent horn and then executed a last-second play to perfection to stun Melstone 45-43 in the first round of the State C boys basketball tournament at the Civic Center.
Scobey’s Riley Linder hit a corner 3-pointer with just under 20 seconds to play to tie the game at 42 and set up the controversial final 1.3 seconds. Melstone sensation Brody Grebe drove to the basket and drew a foul with 1.3 seconds left in the game. Grebe made the first free throw to put the Broncs up 43-42.
Out of a timeout, Grebe intentionally missed the second free throw with four Spartans under the basket. Scobey’s CJ Nelson rebounded the ball and launched a desperate attempt from 90 feet.
An inadvertent horn sounded when Grebe’s free throw hit the rim, though, throwing the final 1.3 seconds into chaos. Game officials determined Scobey would gain possession of the ball under Melstone’s basket with 1.0 seconds on the clock.
Nelson heaved the ball to the opposing 3-point line into the outstretched arms of 6-foot-3 freshman Caden Handran, who caught, turned and drilled the game-winning 3 at the buzzer, sending the Civic Center crowd into a frenzy.
— Richie Melby (@richiemelby) March 1, 2018
“Just hoping to get it off, I guess,” Handran said. “I just looked up at the clock and saw there was a second left. I just threw it up there and hoped for the best.”
“That’s a play we work on every Friday, and the guys get kind of mad at me because it’s monotonous, like, ‘Coach, we’re never going to get in this situation.’ Well, it happened (Thursday),” Scobey coach Jason Wolfe said. “And that is the play, is to go to the middle guy. Fortunately enough, Caden made a great catch. As good as the pass was, the catch was even better. That was the most important part. … The pass got him away from the defender, gave him a little bit of room going to his right, and because of Caden’s length, he was able to get off over the top of the defender. Luck was on our side.”
Handran finished with seven points for Scobey, which was led by 21 points from an ill Nelson. Linder scored 12 points, making just one of his six 3-point attempts.
The first 31-plus minutes of the game were marked by back-and-forth runs between the two juggernauts. Scobey, the Eastern C champion, brought an undefeated record into Thursday’s game with Melstone, which suffered its first loss of the season at the Southern C divisional tournament last week.
The Spartans built an early 13-2 lead midway through the first quarter but went ice-cold the rest of the half, allowing Melstone to close on a 16-4 run and take an 18-17 lead into the break. Scobey went nearly 12 minutes without a field goal in the first half.
“That’s typical of us. We go on spurts, we score in runs because of our up-tempo style of play,” Wolfe said. “We’re used to going long periods of time without scoring. It’s not very easy on me, but I don’t think the kids really react negatively to it because it’s something we’re kind of used to.”
The Spartans outscored Melstone in the third quarter to regain the lead, but the teams stayed close the rest of the way until the Broncs built their biggest lead of the game – 40-36 — with 1:40 to play. Nelson hit a 3 to cut the deficit to one and Grebe extended the advantage back to three with a minute to go.
Linder made his first and only 3 of the game 40 seconds later to set up the final theatrics.
Grebe paced Melstone with 17 points. The Broncs, who will face Belt in a loser-out game on Friday, also got eight from Isaiah Bouchard.
Scobey advances to Friday’s semifinal round, where it will meet defending champion Arlee in a matchup of unbeatens.
“Defensively and quickness-wise, I think we can defend them a little bit. The trick will be to score with them,” Wolfe said.
Arlee 58, Belt 37
Belt hung with defending champion Arlee for 16 minutes, but the Warriors used a 22-7 third-quarter run to advance to Friday’s semifinal round.
Arlee held a 27-24 lead at halftime, but limited Belt to just 13 second-half points. The Huskies were 5-of-20 shooting in the second half, including a 1-for-10 mark from 3-point range. Arlee, meanwhile, made 10 of 18 from the floor, including six 3-pointers.
Will Mesteth scored a game-high 15 points for the undefeated Warriors. Greg Whitesell scored 12 and Phillip Malatare added 10. Arlee will meet Scobey in Friday’s semifinal at 6:30 p.m.
Keagan Stroop (12 points) and Trey Heitzman (10) combined to score 22 points for Belt, which will face Melstone in a loser-out game at 12:30 p.m. Friday.