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State C boys: Manhattan Christian completes repeat with physical win over Big Sandy

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Posted at 9:37 PM, Mar 11, 2023

BILLINGS — It was that kind of night for Seth Amunrud and Manhattan Christian.

At one point during the first half Saturday night, Amunrud, one of the Eagles’ many steady standouts, leaped to put down a fast-break dunk. Only the ball didn’t go through the hoop.

No problem. The ball bounded off the rim and came right back to Amunrud, who this time was able to finish a layup through a defender. It was all part of a big night for Amunrud and an even bigger night for Manhattan Christian, which captured its second consecutive Class C boys basketball championship with a 74-65 victory over Big Sandy at First Interstate Arena at MetraPark.

The Eagles finished the season with a 26-1 record and won their third title in the past five seasons. They had to contend with a physical Big Sandy team but prevailed on the strength of efficient teamwork.

Amunrud had another big game, finishing with 29 points on 8-of-13 shooting with 11 rebounds, five steals, three assists, two blocked shots and only one turnover. Mason Venema added 18 points and eight rebounds, and Tebarek Hill had 17 points, seven rebounds and four assists. The Eagles shot 53% from the floor and outrebounded Big Sandy 36-23.

"It's amazing, man. Back to back," Hill said afterward. "It's really an honor to play with this team. We've got a lot of guys with a lot of heart, and it wasn't easy since Day 1. We went through a lot of adversity but I'm glad we could go out on top."

Perhaps the Eagles' greatest bit of adversity came Friday night, when they had to gut out a 61-56 overtime win over Belt in the semifinals. On Saturday, Manhattan Christian got a lead and were able to keep Big Sandy at arm's length.

A 3 by Christian Triemstra late in the first half gave the Eagles a 34-22 advantage. The lead grew 41-28 early in the third quarter after Nathan Adams converted a nice feed from Hill underneath. Big Sandy hung around largely on the scoring punch of Wylee Snapp and Lane Demontiney but continued to chase the lead.

"(Friday) night we faced a lot of adversity. That's a really good Belt team," Hill said. "And then obviously Big Sandy is a really good team and they're really physical. We haven't played against that a lot. They really like to play physical, so that was good for us. We tried to prepare for that and we came ready."

Of Amunrud's efforts, Hill said: "I'm going to miss playing with him. He's so terrific on the offensive end. I'm so glad he's on our side. It's been an amazing career for him and I'm glad I got to play with him every step of the way."

Demontiney led Big Sandy with 17 points while Snapp and Kody Strutz added 12 each. Snapp also had 13 rebounds, including five on the offensive end. Braydon Cline picked up his third foul in the first half and was unable to get into a flow. He had eight points on 2-of-11 shooting.

Big Sandy finished with a 22-6 record. The Pioneers played for the title after placing third at districts and second at divisionals. That's not to mention the adversity they faced after coach Thomas Dilworth was dismissed in December and replaced by 22-year-old assistant Rhett Simanton, who galvanized the team. The Pioneers came of age as the season progressed and were one win from their first championship since 2010.