CHAMPIONS! Tigers take down Dickinson Trinity for Region 7 Championship, earn state tournament berth

Eighteen.

That is the number of years since New England last took the court at a North Dakota state basketball tournament.

Team and Trophy (RGB)

By COLE BENZ | Herald Editor | cbenz@countrymedia.net

Eighteen.

That is the number of years since New England last took the court at a North Dakota state basketball tournament.

With a 68-58 victory over Dickinson Trinity in the Region 7 Tournament Championship, the Tigers qualified for the 2015 tournament in Bismarck and will face Region 3 winner LaMoure-Litchville/Marion in the first round on March 19.

Players knew what was on the line, a state berth. The alternative would be turning in their uniforms. But considering the magnitude of the game, Head Coach Luke Powers said seeing his squad joke on the court during warmups gave him confidence his team was calm.

Trinity and New England battled each other through blood, sweat and tears. Literally, Ty Nordby had to leave the game in the second half after he took an elbow to the nose. He would return to the game after a uniform change. Trinity also suffered the same fate, and a player departed temporarily when he was popped in the nose under New England’s hoop late in the game.

Both squads had good post presence coming into the game, and New England defended Trinity’s well. But the Titans came with some good sharp shooters and started draining 3-point shots from all around the arc to counter the Tiger defense.

“I thought that we got to the rim, and scored at the rim a lot, and Trinity relied on outside shots,” Powers said.

The Tigers took a three point lead late in the first quarter, but after a 6-0 scoring run by the Titans found themselves down by three points. The Tigers scored a layup right before the quarter ended with New England trailing 16-15.

The Tigers had to fight through two scoring runs by Trinity of six points each. New England finished the first half on a 6-0 run of their own, capped off by a Cody Holt layup. The Tigers held a 27-24 lead at the half.

Trinity started the second half hot, scoring six unanswered points to take the lead. Both teams would put 13 points on the board in the third quarter and entered the fourth with New England leading by three.

New England started to pull away after that.

Starting the surge was John Urlacher-Greff and Cody Holt. Urlacher-Greff was on the 3-point line and dished it down to Holt in the lane, which pulled the defender off of Urlacher-Greff. Holt then sent the ball right back to Urlacher-Greff who launched the shot. It tipped off the rim and Holt grabbed the rebound and made the shot as he was falling to the floor.

Defense was key in getting Trinity off their rhythm. The Titans didn’t score until two minutes into the fourth quarter.

With 50 seconds left in the game New England was ahead 55-48. The Titans fouled Daniel Prince and he missed both shots. He would redeem himself as he found himself back at the line shortly after that. He put both shots through the hoop.

Trinity started to launch contested shots as the clock wound down, with many of them banking out and New England keeping the post protected. Time was against the Titans.

In the end New England sealed the victory and qualified for their first state tournament since 1997

Trinity shot 37 percent from the field against New England’s 48, something Powers said helped his team get the win.

“We’re going to shoot a higher percentage than most teams when we’re shooting from two feet and they’re shooting from 20 feet,” Powers said. “That’s kind of what happened in the game and the reason that we won.”

•A Coach and His Team

Powers has a special relationship with this team. He’s known the juniors and seniors since they took the court as 5th and 6th-graders. They must have had some intuition back then, because they told him they wanted to make it to the state tournament when they got to the varsity level. Knowing the group for such a long time has afforded Powers the opportunity to not only see his team grow as players, but as people. As the team has grown, Powers said they have worked for everything they have received. Nothing has been handed to them.

“What’s special about it is that everything they’re getting right now, you know the Region 7 title, the Region 7 Player of the Year, that wasn’t just given to them, they earned that,” Powers said.

•Method to His Mayhem

When it comes to Coach Powers, there seems to be a method to his mayhem. The man is down to two shirts in his closet for game days.

Why two?

It boils down to good, old fashioned sports superstition. Powers said they are the only shirts that have been on his back during the Tigers’ incredible winning streak. He washed them once before the regional tournament, and he’s washed them once after. He doesn’t plan on washing them again.

Powers is also one of the most animated coaches on the sidelines. He gets excited, he jokes. And when he needs to, motivates his team. But he’s always doing it to get his team better, and get his team what he believes they deserve.

“It’s the only time in my life, at least to this magnitude, that I’ve ever really wanted something for someone else,” Powers said.

He also said he could not be more thankful for the community support he and his team have been given.

“My coaching staff and I just want to thank the community of New England for all of the support, it’s been absolutely amazing and it’s been great hearing it so far,” Powers said.

Powers was awarded Coach of The Year, an award he said was ‘nice,’ but that when you win the award it’s really a display of the great kids you have on your team, and that they are willing to trust in your program, and that you win because of that. Humble words for a man who has driven his team to great success in the past two years.

•Prince Wins Top Honor and All-Region Team.

Daniel Prince was awarded the Region 7 Player of the Year, something his coach said is a ‘long time coming.’ Powers said he’s worked hard for everything he’s achieved.

•Two Tigers make All-Region Team

Along with the Player of The Year Award, Prince made the All-Region Team. Prince’s teammate and fellow senior Ty Nordby also received recognition as a top player in the region.

The rest of the All-Region Team include:  Kirby Maus, Sr., Beach, G/F; Jett Hettich, Sr., G, Beulah; Casey Walcker, Jr., F, Beulah; Wyatt Carr, So., G/F, Hazen; Dion Madler, So., G, Heart River; Blayne Smith, Sr., G, Heart River; Hayden Sadowsky, Jr., G, Hettinger-Scranton; Hayes LeMieux, Jr., F, Killdeer; Brett Messmer, Jr., C/F, Mott-Regent; Spencer Floberg, Sr., C, Richardton-Taylor; Cole Wilhelmi, Sr., G, Dickinson Trinity; Joe Mayer, Sr., G, Dickinson Trinity; Willy Jahner, Jr., G, Dickinson Trinity.

The Tigers will get a taste of state tournament play on Thursday, March 19 in Bismarck. When they pull on their jerseys though, they won’t just be representing their school, but they will be representing a town and a community thirsty for glory.

Cover photo by Rachel Bock | THE HERALD

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