CHURCHILL – On Saturday night, Manhattan Christian’s basketball teams stepped into the ring on its home court to battle for the District 11C titles. When the smoke cleared, both the boys and girls teams came out on top. And now it’s off to the Western C divisional tournament.
The girls team claimed the crown with a 53-37 win over the Lone Peak Bighorns, and they are ready to make a run at state.
“We just have to keep playing smart and cut down on turnovers and just play our best game,” said Eagles girls head coach Scott Wolf. “There’s a lot of luck in divisionals, trying to keep people healthy, as we’ve learned in the past, and playing your best game on the best night. Anyone can get beat any night in divisionals.”
The girls team has clicked this season, led by Alex Veltkamp, who is one of the top 15 scorers in Eagles girls basketball history. She had 15 points in Saturday’s championship win against Lone Peak, but the title wouldn’t have come without the help of others.
“Kelsey (Heidema) getting 22 and playing the whole fourth quarter with four fouls, Jill Frye getting 14 points was her career high is fantastic,” said Wolf.
Now the Eagles travel to Hamilton for divisonals as a top seed and will face a tough first-round test in the Ennis Mustangs.
The boys cruised to their second consecutive district title, defeating Gardiner 98-77 in the championship game Saturday night. After losing to Arlee by four points in last year’s state title game, the team has one motto on the year: Unfinished.
“Last year we were that close, you know, four points from Arlee. We left that locker room last year with a hungry feeling,” said Manhattan Christian boys head coach Jeff Bellach. “They are a great team and they earned that state title and they’re great again this year and we will have to go through them. But that’s kind of been our motto.”
Manhattan Christian has been there before, so the Eagles know what to expect. They are ready to take the gloves off once again in divisionals.
If all goes to plan, that shot at redemption against Arlee could come next week in Hamilton.
“This is the fifth straight district championship that we’ve been able to play in and now an opportunity to come to divisionals and hopefully a chance to go to state for the fourth straight year,” said Bellach. “Not a lot of kids can say they went to state all four years of high school.”
The Eagles’ first-round matchup will be against Philipsburg or Drummond, which are playing a challenge game on Monday.