CHURCHILL — The Manhattan Christian boys basketball team was undefeated all the way up until the District 12C title game when the Eagles lost to Twin Bridges. They bounced back to win the Western C divisional tournament, though, blowing out the Falcons in the championship, and are now looking to make noise in the state tournament.
“I think just coming out of districts we had a chip on our shoulder and we wanted to just go in and get it done," said Eagles junior Logan Leep. "We just worked hard and came out with high energy and we're all on the same page, which helps.”
However, once the team was done winning the Western C, its vision shifted to the state tournament almost immediately. It will be the team’s seventh straight state appearance.
“The guys enjoyed it, but I could tell they were hungry right after the game," said Eagles head coach Layne Glaus. "Practice this week has been great, that in itself kind of shows us where their mindset is.”
Losing their undefeated season at the end of the 12C tournament not only gave the Eagles a chip on their shoulder, but took the monkey off their back to be perfect the whole year.
“Not having that pressure of being an undefeated team just kind of helps and just being able to go out and play basketball now and not have to have that pressure of being undefeated,” Leep said.
When asked what has made the team so successful, one word kept popping up: defense.
“Coach Glaus came in and just beat defense into our minds and I didn’t like playing defense, but now I love it and it’s my favorite thing and I feed off my defense and I think all of us do,” Leep said.
Glaus, who previously coached the Park Rangers in Livingston, is in his first year of coaching Manhattan Christian and has emphasized the importance of defense and it shows. Manhattan Christian has allowed only 35 points per game this season. The new head coach took over after Jeff Bellach took the job as Eagles' athletic director but remained the girls coach. Glaus credits a lot of the team's success on the way Bellach has built the Manhattan Christian program and is thankful for the opportunity to coach the team.
“I love to coach defense, it’s the most selfless part of the game," he said. "When you truly give all your effort and energy on the defensive end and you have five guys working together, it’s truly selfless and I think that’s why the game is so beautiful.”
After not winning state last year, the team is hungry for the title.
“It would be great, because it was a rough ending to the year last year. Put in a lot of work this offseason because we don’t want that to happen again,” said sophomore Seth Amunrud, who leads the Eagles in scoring.
The Eagles play Belt in the first round of the Class C state tournament in Billings on March 10.