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Manhattan Christian boys, led by sole senior standout Mason Venema, chasing three-peat

Manhattan Christian boys
Posted at 7:10 AM, Mar 05, 2024

CHURCHILL — Manhattan Christian is in the midst of chasing a three-peat at the Class C boys basketball state tournament this week.

This is the Eagles' 10th consecutive appearance at state and, despite losing veteran talent every season, the team has continuously stepped up and continued to win.

"It’s very special. I mean, lots of teams dream about making it to state every year," Manhattan Christian junior Christian Triemstra said. "(I'm) very blessed to be apart of a team that makes it. We got lots of talent — Mason (Venema), Jack (Scott), Carter (Van Dyken), Rance (Hamilton), all the way down the bench, we all got lots of talent. I’m so thankful for this team."

After last year's title, the program lost a handful of impactful seniors. Mason Venema is the only senior on this year's squad, so the beginning of the season was focused on the Eagles finding their identity and chemistry.

"It took us a bit longer this season, just because we lost so much experience and so much leadership," Manhattan Christian head coach Layne Glaus said. "So, the first part of the season we were kind of feeling all that out. But second half of the season, we’ve had a number of guys step up. Definitely proud of Mason, our lone senior."

Venema has enjoyed stepping into the leadership role this season and reflected on what this final year with the Eagles has meant to him.

"It’s been really fun to step into that role and teach these guys what it takes to win," Venema said. "Because we’ve been here the past two years, and we’ve been in this position, and we know what it takes."

This is Glaus’ fourth season at the helm, which means Venema has been the first player he has coached throughout an entire high school career.

"He’s selfless, and he’s been a good example to the younger kids coming up through the program," Glaus said of Venema. "So, couldn’t ask for a better senior, I guess. ... First guy to have for all four years. I’m excited for what’s to come for Mason."

Venema explained what Glaus has meant to him as his coach as well.

"He’s been a really big role model for me," Venema said. "He’s taught me a lot about the game of basketball, and so I’m really blessed to have him in my life and to have someone like him to look up to."

To leave with the legacy of a three-peat is something that’s rarely achieved, and this weekend Venema and the Eagles have the opportunity to do just that. But Venema is most proud of the work he and his teammates have put in to have this opportunity.

"It would be awesome," he said with a smile. "I’m excited to compete for a third (championship), and it would just be really cool. I just feel really blessed to be in this position the past three years, but it’s going to take a lot. It’s going to take a lot of work, and, you know, I think we can do it for sure."

Manhattan Christian takes on Winnett-Grass Range in the first round of the state tournament on Wednesday at 3 p.m in Great Falls.