CHURCHILL -- Last season, Manhattan Christian ended a 35-year drought, winning its first boys basketball state title since 1984. For a town that has been a basketball powerhouse, it was long overdue.
“It was just a relief, kind of, because you got so close the first two years and to finally get one for the school was nice since it’s been so long. But it was super fun,” said senior guard Sam Leep.
"It's obviously your dream to go win a state title, and to be able to do that is awesome. And knowing that you have a good team and you can go do it again, that's really special, and you just want to work that much harder in the offseason to do that," added Caidin Hill, a junior guard on the Eagles.
Every year, Manhattan Christian adopts a season slogan. This year it’s “attack new opportunity.” MCHS lost one of the best players to ever suit up in Churchill with the graduation of Caleb Bellach, who is now playing for Montana State. The Eagles must adapt without him. It’s a fresh start with a fresh team and another chance to win a crown.
“This year we’re having to find new ways to score, find guys in the corners, really run a lot more and use our speed to beat opponents instead of just being able to rely on Caleb,” Hill said.
The Eagles don’t want to focus on defending their state title but instead to recognize important moments and capitalize on them. And that opportunity comes for two seniors, Leep and Josiah Amunrud, who have a chance to play in their fourth straight state title game.
“That would be awesome, I’d be super grateful if that were to happen. Most people talk about the one that they made it to, even if they lost. It would just be super awesome to be able to go to four,” Leep said.
And they have the experience to do that.
“We all want to repeat and we do have some pressure to try and do that because we did so well last year," said Hill. "But at the same time, a lot of us have played there and been in those big situations, so we know how to handle ourselves.”