Leep Leaps

Manhattan Christian's Sam Leep scores a second half bucket Thursday night in Butte. The sophomore finished with points in the victory against Heart Butte.

BUTTE — It wasn’t a case of nerves. They’d been here before.

But things weren’t quite clicking in the early going of Thursday night’s game in the Butte Civic Center. That is until Sam Leep stepped on the floor.

The sophomore came off the bench to bury back-to-back 3’s in a 20-second span late in the first quarter to provide Manhattan Christian with a much-needed spark. The team then rode that momentum to a 66-53 first round victory against Heart Butte at the state Class C tournament.

“Sam came in and he’s always looking for it. He’s a scorer,” Christian coach Jeff Bellach said. “That was great. It got us going a little bit.”

Contested Shot

Manhattan Christian's Ryan Busch gets off a contest shot in the second half Thursday night against Heart Butte.

The Eagles (23-3) advanced Friday’s semifinals for a second straight season and will play Park City (21-3) at 8 p.m. The Panthers held off Fairview, 50-44, in other first round action on Thursday.

“Proud of the guys. We’re happy to be back in a semifinal for a second year in a row,” said Bellach. “We have a good opponent tomorrow, so we have to prepare and be ready.”

Leep tallied 15 points in the first half and finished with 17. But it was those two quick 3’s, during a 16-0 run, that proved most critical.

“Him and Caidin (Hill) both could easily be starting for us,” Bellach said. “I feel like we have seven starters, and they can both do some things for us. They add so much when they come in.”

Hill, a 5-foot-10 freshman, shined defensively in the contest and made a pair of free throws late in the fourth quarter to stretch the lead to 14. That’s when Bellach finally felt the victory was secure.

Seeking Help

Manhattan Christian's Parker Dykersterhouse looks to pass the ball after being trapped by a pair of Heart Butte defenders Thursday night in Butte.

“We kept talking about that they’re going to shoot threes, so we got to keep contesting and I felt like we did a good job of it for the most part of it getting out on them,” he said. “It wasn’t until it got out to about 15 or so when I started feeling pretty good about it.”

The Eagles led by just seven, 36-29, at the half. But Caleb Bellach, who finished with a game-high 25 points and 12 rebounds, scored three straight buckets to stretch an eight-point lead to 14 early in the fourth.

Heart Butte (24-1), which suffered its first loss of the season, was led by Riley Spoonhunter’s 23 points. Shylon Spoonhunter and Asaiah ArrowTopKnot combined for 21.

Defending state champion and unbeaten Arlee (24-0) also won on Thursday and will play Scobey in the other semifinal. Thus, a state championship game rematch is still on the table with wins by the Warriors and Eagles Friday night.

First, however, Christian has to get past Park City.

“They’re a good team and they defend well. So we’ll have to be precise and have to execute well on offense,” said coach Bellach. “They have some size and a little bit of range, and that 11 (Rylan) Gauther is a really good point guard. I like his game, so we’ll have to prepare for that.”

Manhattan Christian 66, Heart Butte 53

Christian          20  16  10  20  -  66

Heart Butte             9  20  7  17  -  53

MANHATTAN CHRISTIAN (23-3) – Matthew Amunrud 2 0-1 6, Parker Dyksterhouse 1 0-0 2, Caleb Bellach 9 7-9 25, Josiah Amunrud 2 3-4 8, Ryan Busch 2 2-2 6, Sam Leep 6 2-3 17, David Aamot 0 0-0 0, Caidin Hill 0 0-0 0, Ben Smit 0 0-0 0. Totals: 22 16-23 66.

HEART BUTTE ( 24-1) – Shylon Spoonhunter 4 2-4 11, Riley Spoonhunter 8 3-3 23, Charlie Tailfeathers 3 0-0 7, Cody Aimsback 0 0-0 0, Isaiah ArrowTopKnot 4 2-3 10, Blayne Derouche 1 0-0 2, Jamison YounngRunningCrane 0 0-0 0, Anthony Aimsback 0 0-0 0, Wendell Main III 0 0-0 0. Totals: 20 7-10 53.

3-point goals: 6 (Leep 3, M. Amunrud 2, J. Amunrud 1), HB 6 (R. Spoonhunter 4, S. Spoonhunter 1, Tailfeathers 1). Fouls: MC 11, HB 19. Fouled out: Derouche.