SCOBEY — The past two seasons, the Scobey boys basketball team has made it to the State C tournament on the heels of strong play from its upperclassmen.
After third- and fourth-place finishes the past two seasons, a new crop of talent is looking to lead the Spartans back to the state tournament. A talented sophomore class, along with some experienced upperclassmen, gives Scobey great depth at the Class C level.
“It’s been a good mix,” Scobey head coach Jason Wolfe said. “We don’t really have that 20-25 point a night guy, but we’ve got maybe five or six guys that can get you double figures each night.”
Caden Handran is among the sophomores leading the way for the Spartans. At last year’s state tournament, Handran buried a game-winning shot as time expired to lift Scobey over Melstone in the first round.
Ultimately, Melstone got its revenge in the consolation game when it beat Scobey. However, Handran and his then-freshman teammate Parker Cromwell played a lot of minutes last season at critical times for the Spartans.
“Just getting that, realizing and feeling the experience, the game time – I don’t know how you put a value on it,” Wolfe said. “It’s really something special when you’re that young and you get that type of experience.”
The Spartans do have a pair of senior starters to guide their younger teammates. Wolfe leans on his co-captains Martin Farver and Jeremy Handy to keep the waters calm in big moments.
“I don’t worry so much, because we do still have a good group of seniors this year, guys that have been in the program that are kind of able to keep the ship afloat,” Wolfe said. “We’ve got a bunch of good, talented sophomores, but we’ve got some good juniors and seniors to mix in there with them. So (the big stage) doesn’t concern me too much. (Handy) and (Farver), those guys return a lot of experience from last year. They’ve been big for us early on.”
Playing in the Eastern C, there are plenty of big games. Just recently, Scobey rolled through Fairview by 18 points. Fairview was the other Eastern C representative at the state tournament last season and are expected to be among the top contenders this season.
Westby-Grenora, too, has been a successful program out of the Eastern C over the past several seasons. Young teams such as Froid-Medicine Lake and Plentywood are also looking to challenge the typical powers in the division.
“I think there will be some good teams that may see some hiccups here early in the year, but I think they’ll be real strong towards the end of the year,” Wolfe said. “(Westby-Grenora and Fairview) have had so much success, not only in that district but also in this division in the last 5-6 years, that I think it tells us where we match up in the division very well because of how good they are and how good they’ve been historically. They’re well-coached.”
Wolfe wants his team to take advantage of playing teams like Fairview because the Warriors can pick apart the Spartans’ weak points. But he wants his team to focus on the details against inferior opponents to have his team playing its best against the best.
“I think the challenge for us that we’ve talked about is just staying focused every night,” Wolfe said. “We’re going to have some games like we had (at Frazer) that are not as competitive, but we have to make sure that we’re focused on getting better each and every night out and not getting complacent with some of those games.”
Building experience and chemistry on a game-to-game basis will be key for Scobey. However, Wolfe believes the competitive experience his athletes have gained extends beyond the basketball court. The Spartans have been a basketball town for several years, but the interest in football is peaking.
The Spartans won their first 8-Man playoff game since 2008 when they dropped the South’s No. 1 seed Joliet on the road in the opening round. Wolfe says he has seen the dividends the boost of confidence football season gave his athletes.
“I think it lends to the experience. The kids that I’ve mentioned were also a big part of our football program, and our program seems like it’s taking an extra step each year,” Wolfe said. “Those sophomore kids are all big parts of that. … So just having those game-like experiences, the competition, the physicality that football brings, also, I think lends a lot when you get on the basketball court. I think anytime they just get out on the field and compete, it adds to that experience.”