CHURCHILL – Unfinished. That’s been the motto all season long for the Manhattan Christian boys basketball team. Saturday night, the Ealges moved one step closer to reaching their goal.
The Eagles sprinted out of the gates, posting 55 first-half points for the second consecutive night en route to a 98-77 win over Gardiner to claim their second consecutive District 11C championship.
“Last year, we were that close — four points from Arlee,” Manhattan Christian head coach Jeff Bellach said after the win. “We left that locker room last year with a hungry feeling. Obviously they’re a great team and they earned the state title, and they’re great again this year and we’ll have to go through them and a few other good teams. But that’s kind of been our motto. We’re unfinished as athletes and competitors, and we’re also unfinished as Christians. We’re always trying to get better every day at both of those things, so that’s kind of where that came from.”
Once again, Manhattan Christian capitalized on its length and athleticism on the defensive end of the floor, racking up 30 points off turnovers. Even with the Eagles leading by more than 20 for the majority of the game, Bellach paced the sidelines imploring his guys to continue to work.
“They love to do it,” Bellach says of the Eagles’ pressure. “It inspires them to be able to use that ability that they have, and it’s fun to watch. We can almost stretch our arms all the way across the floor with the length that we have. They haven’t been able to (press) a lot this year, so (Saturday) was actually the most we have all season. They thrive, they look forward to it, and you can kind of see the switch flip when we’re able to do that.
“We’ve had moments (of complacency) throughout the year against some opponents that we had the edge on. We just try to avoid that because we want to keep getting better every chance we get. That was (the reason for the intensity Saturday). District championship, you kind of take the gloves off and go to war. I think it’s important that we use those minutes to get better, and continue to get better and not get complacent.”
Manhattan Christian seniors Parker Dyksterhouse, Matthew Amunrud and Ryan Busch are looking for their fourth trip to the Class C state tournament in four years.
“Not a lot of kids get that opportunity,” Bellach said. “Not a lot of kids can say that they went to state all four years of high school, especially at the Class C level. It’s something we won’t take for granted, and we’ll keep working towards it.”
Manhattan Christian and Gardiner will move on to the Western C divisional next weekend in Hamilton.