BILLINGS — After trailing for much of the first half Friday in a loser-out game at the State C tournament, Manhattan Christian took the momentum heading into halftime.
Bella Triemstra banked in a long 3 at the buzzer to give the Eagles a 19-18 lead against Plentywood. But the Wildcats regained the lead in the opening minute of the second half and didn’t trail again in a 50-43 victory in First Interstate Arena.
Plentywood (24-2) shoot 50% from the field (72.7% in the second half) to advance to the consolation game Saturday against Roy-Winifred. Christian’s season came to an end after back-to-back losses, including to Saco-Whitewater-Hinsdale in Thursday’s semifinals.
“I can’t fault the girls’ effort. They gave a great effort all three games,” Christian head coach Jeff Bellach said. “We just struggled a little bit trying to get into some offensive stuff and like I said every team here is good. I’m proud of what the girls have done.”
The Eagles tied the game twice in the third quarter at 31 and 33 on a putback by Miranda Wyatt and bucket by Triemstra, respectively. But the Wildcats closed out the quarter with a score off a turnover and then notched the first five points of the fourth to take a seven-point lead.
Christian was only able to get back within three, 43-40, on a 3 by Ava Bellach with 3:42 remaining. The senior wrapped up a stellar career with team-high 14 points and five rebounds.
Triemstra also reached double figures with 13 points.
Plentywood was led by Annie Kaul and Emma Brensdal, who combined for 28 points and 15 rebounds.
While it was a tough way to close out the season, coach Bellach noted the team’s many accomplishments. Three seniors opted not to return this year, and it was a much different look from summer ball.
“Sam (Veltkamp) didn’t play because of her knee and Miranda (Wyatt) wasn’t committed to the team yet and then the others not coming out,” coach Bellach said. “To do what we did despite a lot of that stuff is a pretty good accomplish for this year.”
Veltkamp was coming off ACL surgery, while Wyatt returned to the program after sitting out a season. The juniors were instrumental in the team’s success.
Christian (22-5) advanced to state for the fourth consecutive season and won at least 22 games in each of those years.
“Huge accomplishments from where the program kind of was and so really proud of that,” said coach Bellach. “Really proud of the girls that saw it through.”
Prior to coach Bellach taking over the program for the 2018-19 campaign, the Eagles had not advanced to state in a decade. His teams reached the state semifinals twice, placed fourth in 2021, and posted a 101-30 record over that span.
But coach Bellach has decided it’s time to step away after five years at the helm of girls. He also coached the boys for seven years — they went unbeaten and won state in 2019 — and another five years coaching Three Forks’ girls.
“Obviously I’m going to take a step away from it for now,” he said. “I learned a long time ago never say never, so I won’t say that I’m never going to coach again. But I definitely need a break and I need a little more time with my family and a little more time to my new job. So I’m looking forward to that.”
Ava Bellach, who is coach Bellach’s daughter, will be playing at Montana Western next year. And Caleb Bellach, who helped the boys win state in 2019, plays at Montana Tech.
“One of the things I’ll miss the most is these last couple weeks getting all the texts from former players that are now moms and dads and husbands and wives, and it’s always ‘coach’,” said coach Bellach. “I’m gonna miss that.”
State C Tournament
(at First Interstate Arena, Billings)
Roy-Winifred 49, Chinook 40, loser-out
Plentywood 50, Manhattan Christian 43, loser-out
Plentywood 50, Manhattan Christian 43
Plentywood 10 8 17 15 - 50
Christian 6 13 14 10 - 43
PLENTYWOOD (24-2) – Mallory Tommerup 3 2-4 9, Annie Kaul 5 2-2 14, Audrey Sampson 2 2-2 7, Paityn Curtiss 3 0-1 6, Emma Brensdal 6 1-2 14, Jaiminson Soderquist 0 0-0 0. Totals: 19 7-11 50.
MANHATTAN CHRISTIAN (22-5) – Sam Veltkamp 0 0-0 0, Hadley Bradford 0 0-0 0, Bella Triemstra 4 3-7 13, Katelyn Van Kirk 0 2-2 2, Ava Bellach 5 2-3 14, Grace Aamot 4 0-2 8, Miranda Wyatt 3 0-0 6. Totals: 16 7-14 43.
3-point goals: Ple 5 (Kaul 2, Tommerup 1, Sampson 1, Brensdal 1), MC 4 (Triemstra 2, Bellach 2).