The Tigers had one final tune up before post season play starts, and on Friday, Feb 27 the Glen Ullin-Hebron Bearcats visited the New England Tigers.
By Cole Benz | Herald Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Tigers had one final tune up before post season play starts, and on Friday, Feb 27 the Glen Ullin-Hebron Bearcats visited the New England Tigers. It was the last game of the regular year, and on the line for the Tigers was an undefeated regional season, but the focus was not just on the court that evening.
Communication had been sent out prior to the game instructing attendees to wear green to the game. The community would adhere to those instructions and the crowd donned t-shirts honoring Tanner Garman, Dalen Dorval and Waylyn McRae, the three individuals who died in a car accident last week. The team wore ‘Pray For Ray’ shirts.
It was a scene that undeniably displays the rally and support small communities share for one another, no matter the geographical distances.
The evening was also a chance to honor those lacing up their shoes as New England Tigers for the last time. The seniors of the boy’s basketball team were given a show of affection by the school and the team they had played for.
The seniors got quite the sendoff, toppling the Bearcats 70-36.
New England was relentless from the opening tip. Grabbing a commanding 18-point lead by the time the first quarter had come to a close. The Tigers were up 28-10.
Things didn’t change much during the second quarter. The Tiger defense kept the Bearcats in check and held them to a 10-point quarter again, then added another 17 points. The half ended with New England up 45-20.
The Tigers didn’t let up on the defensive side of the ball, and after the halftime break the Bearcats were only able to put eight points on the board, settling for a score of 28 before the last quarter began. New England continued its torrid scoring and put up another 18 points.
The Tigers let off the gas a little in the fourth quarter, scoring seven against a Glen Ullin-Hebron team that could only muster up another eight points, and the Bearcats were defeated 70-36.
New England now enters the regional tournament as the No. 1 seed with an undefeated regional record. With 19 wins and only two losses the Tigers also secured the best overall record in the region.
In one of the harder regions in the state, New England Head Coach Luke Powers appreciated the undefeated record his team earned this year.
“I think that’s a nice accomplishment,” Powers said.
He also said they are on to the postseason now and his team needs to look forward, not backward. Earning a bye was one of their goals at the start of the year, but now they need to win their next three games to keep fulfilling more of those goals.
The Tigers had only two blemishes on their record. A one point loss to Shiloh Christian, and the Rough Rider Championship game loss to Dickinson Trinity at the beginning of the year.
“I think it was a good wake up call,” Powers said, referring to the championship game loss.
The team knew nothing was going to be handed to them and they continued to improve from that game on.
Powers said early in the preseason and the first part of the regular season he had a group of very talented individuals, and by Christmas time he had a well tuned team.
“We were a very talented group of individuals at the beginning of the year and we’ve become a very talented team overall,” Powers said.
One of the chemistry issues his squad had to accommodate to was a true post presence. With Ty Nordby and newcomer Cody Holt, the Tigers had two big-men to rely on under the hoop, something the team wasn’t necessarily used to having. Part of learning the team chemistry is getting adjusted to the timing of dishing the ball down below the basket, and it isn’t always just on the post player. Both the perimeter players and the post presence have to adjust, they need to understand when to feed the post and then understand where your defender is as a post player. The team has seemed to have learned that chemistry, judging by their win total and the fact they won their last 15 games after the Shiloh Christian loss. The Tigers seemed to be gelling at just the right time, and they are playing excellent team ball. Evident to that is the fact that they have had multiple players leading the scoring efforts from game to game. The team is also showing great awareness on the court, they seem to know where their teammates are, and are able to execute plays more efficiently.
Powers said that though they have had success during the season, they have kept their confidence in check. Confidence is good, overconfidence is not always good, and Powers said his team’s experience has kept them focused. The team has become accustomed to state rankings and publicity as they have continued to excel from last season. They know that headlines and team rankings aren’t going to get them success on the court.
Powers, who is in his fifth year as head coach, said this is one of the most talented groups of players he’s coached. He’s known these kids since they were in fourth and fifth grade and since then they have had the goal of making it to state. They have their chance now.
“The original goal was to be the number one seed, we did that, but now the goal is to find a way to win three games in a row in the regional tournament,” Powers said.
Since New England had a top three seed finish, they received a first round bye and will play Hazen on Monday, March 9. It’s the first game of the day and start time is 2 p.m. at Dickinson Trinity.