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New England returns with senior-laden team, led by 4 starters

Press Photo by Royal McGregor New England senior forward Hannah Nordby, left, goes up for a shot against Bowman County’s Kaylee Heinrich during the District 13 Tournament on March 2 in Bowman.

Last year, the New England girls basketball went into the District 13 Tournament as the No. 2 seed and first round bye.

The Tigers ultimately failed to make the Region 7 tournament after dropping back-to-back games against Bowman County and Hettinger-Scranton.

New England came with one great learned tool, especially since this year Region 7 is a super-regional.

“You have to stay consistent throughout the year,” New England head coach Jason Jung said. “Every regional game matters toward the standings. I think it’s not going to keep the coaches, but the kids focus throughout the whole year.”

The bright spot for the Tigers this season is the team returns many players with varsity experience. New England has four returning senior starters in Ashley Plaggemeyer, Autumn Wolf, Gabbi Hanson and Hannah Nordby.

“It seems that we are so far ahead of the game already after a couple days of practice, because they know our system, they know what we want to do and that experience just shows already,” Jung said. “A big thing with that is the senior leadership. Not only do they know what we are doing and where we want to go, but they are helping the young kids out as well.”

Two players, which had a hand in every game last season, are Nordby and Hanson. The two seniors are the returning leading scorers from Region 7.

Hanson, who played shooting guard last year, is moving to the point. The senior guard averaged 14.6 points per game and is comfortable shooting beyond the arch, but can also drive to the basket.

“Gabbi is going to be an elite player this year,” Jung said. “She worked on her game a lot in the offseason. She’s so competitive and loves to win.”

Nordby on the hand is a controlling presence in the paint. The 5-foot-8 forward averaged 12.1 points per game and helped the Tigers finish fourth in scoring offense (49.3) and the top scoring defense (40.6) in Region 7.

“The other kids know that they can go to Hannah for anything,” Jung said. “She definitely shows a lot of leadership on the floor with her work ethic.”

One player the Tigers are glad to have back is Jenna Ehlis. The sophomore guard’s season was cut short last year after suffering a season ending injury.

Jung said Ehlis was tentative coming back during summer camps, but so far in practice the sophomore guard is back to 100 percent.

“Just the way she’s worked so hard in the offseason to get herself back to where she was is a testament to her character and it rubs off on the other girls,” Jung said. “In the practices that we’ve had so far, she’s all-out and she seems very determined. She wants to make up for lost time.”