CHURCHILL — The 2018-19 Manhattan Christian girls basketball squad has had its fair share of adversity this year.
“We were kind of starting over from scratch at the beginning of the year with the new coach — it’s like completely different than what we had last year,” senior Alexa Vandyken said. “So we’re confident he’s going to get us where we need to be if we work hard at it.”
“Like at the beginning it was a little rough … we had a lot of tough games,” Vandyken said of their busy non-conference schedule. “But I think we’re definitely progressing.”
“We’ve played a great, very tough schedule. Our non-conference schedule has been brutal, but it’s good,” said head coach Jeff Bellach, who is in his first season coaching the Manhattan Christian girls. Bellach also coaches the Eagles boys team, which has finished runner-up at the Class C state tournament each of the past two seasons.
The MCHS girls’ stretch of tough games has prepared them for their near-undefeated streak they’re enjoying in conference play. They were 5-0 up until Friday night when they lost to West Yellowstone 41-40.
“I think we’re finally kind of coming together,” senior Kelsey Heidema said. “But definitely we played four out of the top 10 (Class B) teams in the state, so they were definitely really hard teams.”
“We had a close game with Shields Valley and I think that the tough games we played before that kind of helped us pull through and win that one,” Vandyken added.
The catch, though: The team still has an overall losing record at 5-8.
“Psychologically, it messes with you a little when you have these defeats to these good teams,” Bellach said. “Trying to keep that into perspective with the girls and where we’re at and where we’re headed, it’s a difficult thing at times, but they’ve done a good job of handling it and keeping things in perspective.”
“I, especially, am really happy we got a new coach,” Heidema said. “I was really excited about that. He’s really pushed us to hustle more and be more aggressive everywhere, and his main point is it doesn’t matter if we lose a game; we just have to hustle harder than the other team. I really like that.”
“I think the biggest thing he tells us is as long as we work harder, and play harder, than the other team we’re going to get somewhere,” Vandyken added. “As long as you’re playing as hard as you can you’re going to be getting better.”
The Eagles are nearing the left turn where they will meet all the teams in District 11C a second time, and while it’s hard to beat the same team twice, the Eagles are remaining confident.
“It’s like a confidence booster knowing you’re on top right at the moment, but you can’t let it ever get to your head because you don’t know what happens the second half around,” Heidema said. “Teams always get better, and we’re also getting better, so I think it will be a good second half of the season.”
“Still got a ways to go in some areas, but we’ve been able to go into our conference games and put together a few good quarters here and there,” Bellach said. “I still don’t think we’ve put four quarters together. I think once we put four quarters together, then that’s really going to give us a lot more confidence.