CHURCHILL — Jeff Bellach’s debut at Manhattan Christian was a successful one for the former Three Forks girls basketball coach. The Eagles held on to beat Shepherd, 70-65, Friday at the Manhattan Bank Tip-Off Tournament.
While the Eagles savored that victory, it didn’t last long as District 1B power Choteau handed Christian a 66-56 loss at the Memorial Event Center on Saturday night.
The Eagles (1-1) survived Shepherd’s fourth quarter press to hang on for the five-point victory Friday night.
“We did pretty well,” said Bellach. “I thought we did a good job on that. We made a few careless mistakes, but we corrected them. We were patient with it. Really happy with what we did.”
Shepherd outscored the Eagles 15-5 over the final three minutes of the game to trim the deficit to five. Colter Feuerstein scored on a putback with 3:07 remaining to spark the rally, then John Mushaben scored in the paint.
Tyson Hinkle followed with a pair of free throws, then after Christian senior Brady VanDyken missed the front end of a 1-and-1, Hinkle added two more free throws. Cole Torgerson scored a bucket after Shepherd forced a turnover, to make it 67-62 with 39 seconds to play.
VanDyken blocked Mushaben’s three-point attempt, then scored on the play to gave the Eagles a 70-62 lead. Mushaben did connect on a three as time expired to cap the scoring.
The Eagles led 59-41 entering the final eight minutes of play. Shepherd’s Chad Nebel sparked the rally that drew the Mustangs within 67-62 with 39 seconds to play. The freshman connected on a pair of free throws early in the fourth quarter, then Hinkle buried a three followed by a Mushaben bucket in the paint to cut the Mustangs’ deficit to 13 points, 61-48.
“We had a few moments where Shepherd’s press got us out of rhythm,” said Bellach. “We maybe lost focus a little bit as far as getting back on defense.”
Christian sophomore Kevin Blanksma had scored on two buckets that gave the Eagles a 65-50 lead with four minutes left in the game.
Conner VanDyken scored seven points in the first eight minutes of the contest and added seven more in the second quarter for the Eagles. VanDyken’s bucket at the 6:05 mark gave the Eagles a 5-0 lead. His two free throws with 10 seconds left in the frame put the Eagles up 17-15. Cody Goldhahn’s two charity shots had given Christian an 8-4 lead.
Landon Murray scored on a three-point play for Shepherd that tied the game at 15 with 22 seconds left in the first quarter. The game was also tied at 10 on Mushaben’s steal and layup.
Scott Kamps had two buckets and Colton March added a three-pointer that gave the Eagles a 37-28 lead late in the second quarter. Christian later took a 37-30 lead into halftime.
Blanksma connected on the first two field goals of the second half for a 47-33 lead, then Conner VanDyken buried a 3-pointer with 2:30 left in the third quarter for a 53-39 lead.
“They played great,” said Bellach. “They played hard for four quarters. I was pleased with that.”
Blanksma finished with a double-double, scoring 21 points on 10-of-14 field goals and grabbing 11 rebounds. Conner VanDyken also had 21 points, while Kamps finished with 19 points and eight rebounds.
“Kevin had a nice game,” Bellach said. “I thought Colton had a nice game. He had only four points, but he did a nice job of controlling the ball when we needed it. He did a nice job defensively also.”
Mushaben led Shepherd with 18 hard points. Murray added 15 points.
Brady VanDyken had the task of guarding Mushaben, Shepherd’s 6-foot-2 junior forward/post.
“I thought Brady did a good job on defense,” said Bellach. “Mushaben is a good player. He did a nice job of keeping us off balance on defense. I thought Brady did a nice job on him getting some stops.”
On Saturday, Choteau (3-0) outscored Christian 27-19 in the second half en route to handing the Eagles their first loss of the season. Christian had taken a 22-17 lead in the first quarter, but Choteau rallied to take a 39-37 lead into halftime.
“Choteau is a nice team. We were looking forward to the game,” Bellach said after Friday’s game against Shepherd. “We have nothing to lose. We’re coming out to get better. We’re playing one of the top teams in Class B on our home floor. We’ll embraced it.
“I was telling them for five years as a girls coach we played the best team on the second day of the season.”
Bellach was referring to Three Forks’ girls playing Fairfield at the annual Imerys Tournament. They had won back-to-back title entering last year’s season-opening tournament.
Choteau won the game from the free throw line, connecting on 15-of-18 attempts. Collin Archenback went 7-for-7, scoring 11 points.
Choteau had three other players score in double figures with Wyatt Pannabecker netting 19 points, Liam Breen tallying 15, and Derrek Durocher finishing with 13.
Conner VanDyken had a game-high 23 points in leading Christian. Blanksma added 12 points, while Kamps had 10.
Bellach, following the Shepherd game, saw a few things that the Eagles will need to work on before playing Manhattan Thursday night.
“We got a lot of things to work on,” he said. “But this time of year we expect that. For the first game, I’ll take it.”
Christian travels to Manhattan Thursday, then open District 11/12C play Friday night at Lima.
Choteau 66, Manhattan Christian 56
Choteau 17 22 13 14 - 66
Christian 22 15 9 10 - 56
CHOTEAU (3-0) - Wyatt Pannabecker 6 4-5 19, Liam Breen 6 2-2 15, Derrek Durocher 6 1-2 13, Collin Achenbach 2 7-7 11, Dylan Pannabecker 2 0-0 5, Christopher Moore 1 0-0 2, Logan Howard 0 1-2 1, Logan Crabtree 0 0-0 0. Totals: 23 15-18 66.
MANHATTAN CHRISTIAN (1-1) - Conner VanDyken 9 2-3 23, Kevin Blanksma 6 0-0 12, Scott Kamps 4 2-4 10, Brady VanDyken 3 1-2 7, Ron Kroon 1 0-0 2, Keith Heidema 1 0-0 2, Colton March 0 0-0 0, Cody Goldhahn 0 0-0 0. Totals: 24 5-9 56.
3-point goals: Cho 5 (Wyatt Pannabecker 3, Breen 1, Dylan Pannabecker 1), MC 3 (Connor VanDyken). Fouls: Cho 14, MC 21. Fouled out: Connor VanDyken. Rebounds: Cho 32 (Dylan Pannabecker 7), MC 30 (Connor VanDyken 8). Technicals: none.
Manhattan Christian 70, Shepherd 65
Shepherd 15 15 11 24 - 65
Christian 17 20 18 15 - 70
SHEPHERD (0-1) - Hyrum Hanson 1 1-3 3, Landon Murray 5 3-4 15, Chad Nebel 2 2-2 6, John Mushaben 6 3-4 18, Cole Torgerson 2 1-2 6, Ben Oliver 1 0-0 2, Tyson Hinkle 3 2-3 9, Colter Feuerstein 3 0-0 6. Totals: 23 12-18 65.
MANHATTAN CHRISTIAN (1-0) - Kroon 0 0-0 0, Connor VanDyken 8 3-4 21, Austin Bos 0 0-0 0, Goldhahn 0 3-4 3, March 1 1-2 4, Kamps 9 1-3 19, Brady VanDyken 1 0-2 2, Heidema 0 0-0 0, Blanksma 10 1-1 21. Totals: 29 9-16 70.
3-point goals: Shep 7 (Mushaben 3, Murray 2, Torgerson 1, Hinkle 1), MC 3 (Connor VanDyken 2, March 1). Fouls: Shep 17, MC 17. Fouled out: none. Rebounds: Shep 31 (Hanson 6). MC 40 (Blanksma 11). Technicals: none.