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Tigers open with inexperience, but have talented young group

Press Photo by Dustin Monke New England junior forward Daniel Prince, right, looks to pass to a teammate during the District 13 Tournament on Feb. 15 at Knights of Columbus Activities Center. Prince leads a young and inexperienced group of players for the Tigers this season.

New England boys basketball head coach Luke Powers said this is the most inexperienced team he’s ever had.

He followed up with saying, which is never a bad thing.

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“This is as talented of a team as I’ve had out here,” Powers said. “What we are lacking right now is experience.”

The Tigers might not possess the experience, but the team has a massive amount of athletic ability.

New England has a total of four seniors on the roster, but 5-foot-11 guard Jordan Maershbecker will be the lone player seeing significant playing time. The rest of the Tigers’ roster includes five juniors and two sophomores.

“Jordan will see some significant time and the other seniors will be some role players,” Powers said. “Once we are gaining experience, I do think that we have size, talent and balance. I’ve never had a team as balance as I have right now. I’ve also never had a team as inexperienced as I do right now, but I do think at the end of the season we can be right there fighting for a spot.”

Out of the returning players from last year’s team, the Tigers have multiple players with game-time experience.

New England starters begin with 6-foot-4 Daniel Prince. The junior forward has the ability to knock down 3-pointers, jumpers and drive to the basket. The Tigers will also be relying on juniors John Urlacher (6-2, guard), Ty Nordby (6-2, forward), Gavin Fitterer (6-1, center), Mason Stang (6-1, guard). The sophomores are Hunter Wolf (5-7, guard) and Brady Bender (6-0, guard).

“You are always called a coach, but what you are really doing is teaching the game of basketball, especially when you have a group of kids that I do right now that are learning on the go,” Powers said. “Every practice, we go into we have different things that we have to talk about or go over. The kids are working hard and giving 100 percent. That’s exciting and it’s going to be exciting when we start playing some games, so we can respond to some things we do in the game.”

Powers knows this team is going to have to learn as they go.

“We have a great group of talent kids coming up and what we lack in experience we’re going to make up for with hustle,” Powers said. “The one thing I have in New England is a ton of gym rats. They’re in the gym all the time. What’s important is that they are growing up together and they are going to grow and gain experience as a team.”

Last year the Tigers made the Region 7 tournament, but lost in the first round to Dickinson Trinity. The Titans went on to be Region 7 champions and place fifth at the North Dakota Class B state boys basketball tournament.

New England finished last year with 11-12 overall record and 2-3 in District 13. The Tigers averaged 52.5 points per game, while allowing 56.9. The Tigers’ biggest loss coming into the season is the graduation of Levi Hollinger, who led the game and finished fourth in Region 7 scoring with 19.4 points per game.

With the district tournaments dropped, each team will now make the Region 7 tournament. Powers said it will be important to continually gain experience for the time when it matters the most.

“The team that’s playing best at the end of the season is going to have a shot at it this year,” he said. “There’s Beulah, Hazen, Trinity, Heart River and Hettinger-Scranton. We just hope to be somewhere in the mix. Our goal is to work hard right now and learn from our losses, but at the same time learn from our wins. The thing about Class B basketball in North Dakota is you can go 0-21, but if you win the last three games you get to go to the dance.

“We may take some lumps early and then again we may not. But, we’re going to keep working toward our goal and our goal is to be there when it counts.”