BUTTE – Unfinished business.
That’s been the mindset since walking off the court in Brick Breeden Fieldhouse a year ago. Now, Manhattan Christian has a second chance.
Led by career-high 35 points from Caleb Bellach, the Eagles routed Park City, 74-50, in the semifinals of the State C tournament Thursday night.
It was an emphatic victory to set up a rematch of last year’s title game, which Christian lost to Arlee, 71-67. They’ll meet again in the Butte Civic Center Friday night at 8 p.m.
“It’s exactly what we get to do tomorrow. We get to go out there and play with as much heart as we can and give it our all,” said Bellach. “This is where we dreamed of being last year after we lost. We dreamed of being right in this position and we get another shot at it.”
Led by a game-high 28 points from Phillip Malatare, unbeaten and top-ranked Arlee (25-0) beat previously unbeaten Scobey in the other semifinal. The defending state champions rallied from a seven-point second half deficit to earn a third straight trip to the championship game.
“They’re a great team, but these guys are excited to play them again,” Eagles coach Jeff Bellach said. “It’s been a great rivalry and the fan bases are passionate about the programs and communities and what they do. Our kids have a ton of respect for them, and I know they have some respect for our kids. So it’s going to be a fun atmosphere.”
Christian (24-3) led just 16-14 midway through the second quarter, but closed out the half strong. Caleb Bellach scored four straight points, including a dunk off a steal, and then Sam Leep buried back-to-back 3’s from the corner to break the game open.
“We were playing a little tight up until that point and just playing not to lose a little bit. And they’re physical and they get after it defensively. We knew that coming in,” said coach Bellach. “Took a little bit to adjust to it, and we put them on the line a little too much early, but I was proud of the way the kids adjusted and went back at it.”
That 14-0 run propelled the Eagles to a 30-16 halftime lead, and then Caleb Bellach lit up the net in the third quarter. The 6-foot-5 junior tallied 21 points in the frame, including five 3’s, to stretch the lead to 27.
“My teammates got me the ball when I was open and I just let the game come to me,” he said. “That was a fun quarter and a fun game, and we played together. It was awesome.”
The Eagles shot 48 .1 percent from the field, led by Caleb Bellach. He shot 12-of-24 from the field and 6-for-10 from behind the arc.
“I like to think that I’m a versatile player. I like to work on all aspects of my game to help myself at the next level hopefully,” he said. “Some nights I do better inside and some nights I do better on the outside.”
Caidin Hill and Leep also reached double figures with 10 points each, while Matthew Amunrud chipped in with seven.
Rylan Gauther led Park City (21-4), which will play Melstone in a loser-out game at 11 a.m., with 13 points.
Manhattan Christian 74, Park City 50
Park City 9 7 14 20 - 50
Christian 11 19 28 16 - 74
PARK CITY (21-4) - Rylan Gauther 4 5-10 13, Connor McNeil 2 5-8 9, Austin Popp 0 0-0 0, Talon Johnstone 1 7-12 9, Tristen Johnstone 1 0-0 2, Steh Popp 1 0-1 3, Garrett McMilley 0 0-0 0, Tucker Johnstone 1 0-0 2, Caleb Van Doren 3 2-2 10, Jim Wetmore 0 0-0 0, Ben Kessler 0 0-0 0, Austin Dennis 1 0-2 2. Totals: 14 12-19 50.
MANHATTAN CHRISTIAN (24-3) - Matthew Amunrud 3 1-1 7, Parker Dyksterhouse 1 0-0 2, Caleb Bellach 12 5-7 35, Josiah Amunrud 0 0-0 0, Ryan Busch 3 0-0 6, Sam Leep 4 0-0 10, David Aamot 0 0-0 0, Caidin Hill 2 4-5 10, Ben Smit 0 0-0 0, Jacob Bos 0 0-0 0, Matt Kenney 0 2-2 2, Tyler Kamps 0 1-1 1. Totals: 25 14-19 74.
3-point goals: PC 3 (Van Doren 2, S. Popp 1), MC 10 (Bellach 6, Leep 2, Hill 2). Fouls: PC 19, MC 20. Fouled out: T. Johnstone.