The eighth-seeded New England Tigers knew it had big shoes to fill against the top-seeded Beulah Miners in the second round of the Class B Region 7 boys basketball tournament. New England got the start it hoped for, but an ending it hoped never to see.
After only having a 11-10 lead at the end of the first quarter, the Miners (18-4) dug a deep hole for the Tigers (13-10) outscoring its opponents 26-8 in the second quarter to take a 36-19 lead into the halftime break. As a result, the hole was too big to climb for the Tigers and the team was forced to succumb to a 66-37 loss.
Despite the loss, Head Coach Kaine Hanson credited his team for their hard fought effort throughout the season.
"Where we started the year to where we finished at, I was so proud of the way these guys improved and the way they kept battling," Hanson said. "We knew it was going to be a little bit of a tougher season, we weren’t predicted to be very high. We were more at the bottom of the region, and we ended up with a home play-in game and made it to regionals and that was our goal.
"Our last goal was to get here and make some noise and we weren’t able to do that and we fell short there. But I’m so proud of the way these guys battled and all season long they just kept coming back wanting to improve. They’re super coachable kids."
The Miners seemingly controlled the stats sheet, scoring on 46.6% of its overall shots, compared to the Tigers' 27.9%. The low shooting percentage could also be credited to the Miners' tight-knit defense which resulted in New England giving up 24 turnovers and Beulah scoring 21 points off turnovers.
"If you’re playing a team like this and you’re going for an upset, you got to value the basketball and can’t turn the ball over because you can’t give them any extra possessions," Hanson said. "We had 24 turnovers tonight and there were many times where we didn’t even get a shot off. We just turned it over, had some mental lapses on defense, we let some guys run free and that kind of hurts when you’re playing a team like Beulah."
For New England seniors Aidan Rebel, Waylon Kathrein, and Zane Sabo, the trio attempted to keep the team's hopes alive. Rebel led the team with a 15 point, 17 rebound double-double. With the realization that the game was too far out of reach, so too came the end of a strong core of seniors for the Tigers.
"All three of them are great kids, I know they’re going to go out after this and be successful in whatever they choose to do," Hanson said. "I’m just proud of them with how hard they worked this year and I know they’re going to be successful in whatever they choose to do in their life."
With its '20-21 season officially coming to an end on Monday, so starts preparations for the '21-22 season for Hanson and the returning New England Tigers.
"The guys are just going to continue to buy in and continue to wanting to improve and get better and hopefully our younger guys are going to want to build off of this and use this as a chance to really fuel us in the offseason," Hanson said.
As for the Beulah Miners, the top-seeded team advances to the semifinal round of the regional tournament on Tuesday and will battle Hazen at 5 p.m. MST. The Miners are currently 2-0 against the Bison.
New England: 11 8 10 8 - 37
Beulah: 10 26 16 14 - 66
New England: Brock Ehlis 0, Justin Kathrein 0, Tallen Binstock 0, Noah Madler 0, Zack Jalbert 12, Aidan Rebel 15, Matthew Bock 0, Waylon Kathrein 3, Jess Schulz 0, Jaren Rafferty 0, Zane Sabo 0, Nathan Kaufman 7.
Beulah: Elijah Barbot 0, Jack Koppelsoen 6, Dawson Zuroff 14, Dawson Filibeck 0, Zach Alissawi 2, Trey Brandt 18, Nathan Battest 4, Trapper Skalsky 16, Brooks Vigesaa 0, Carson Weigum 4, Trace Beauchamp 0, Armani Smith 2, Tarren Larson 0.