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Causing a disruption: Dickinson Trinity defense diminishes Tigers attack

Dickinson Trinity junior guard Matt Stafford dribbles under pressure from New England sophomore guard Aidan Rebel on Tuesday, Jan. 8, at the Knights of Columbus Activities Center. (Shelby Reardon / The Dickinson Press)1 / 3
Dickinson Trinity senior forward Aric Knopik goes up for a lay-in after helping force a New England turnover on Tuesday, Jan. 8, at the Knights of Columbus Activities Center. (Shelby Reardon / The Dickinson Press)2 / 3
New England junior guard Jaxon Hewson moves around Titans defender Cheydan Hauf on Tuesday, Jan. 8, at the Knights of Columbus Activities Center. (Shelby Reardon / The Dickinson Press)3 / 3

Midway through the fourth quarter against the New England boys basketball team, Dickinson Trinity senior Aric Knopik missed a free throw to cap off a three-point play.

Tigers junior Cooper Granger got ahold of the ball, but thanks to a double-team pressure from Knopik and junior guard Matt Stafford, Granger could barely bring it to the edge of the three-point circle. He raised his arms high and attempted to pass up court to a teammate, but Stafford leaped and got a finger on the ball, which Knopik got his hands on.

The 6-foot-4 forward dribbled three times before climbing the stairs for the effortless lay-in, putting the Titans up 57-35.

Dickinson Trinity pressured all night in the full court, limiting the Tigers to just six points in the final frame and going on to win 64-37 on Tuesday, Jan. 8 at the Knights of Columbus Activities Center.

"This last weekend in Bismarck, we had a lot of success when we started running and jumping in the full court, playing teams that were pretty good," Dickinson Trinity head coach Gregg Grinsteinner said. "We did a pretty good job in the last two, three minutes of both those games. So we though, 'You know what? Let's start doing it in the full court.' I think we got to do a better job utilizing all our athletes. We're deep enough in our bench where we should be able to play 10, 11 kids. I thought we got into that rotation pretty well tonight."

In the final quarter, the Tigers struggled to score. New England opened the frame with a bucket and two and half minutes later, senior center Zach Madler scored on a jumper. From there, the Titans scored seven straight until three minutes later, when junior guard Gabe Sorenson netted the final two points for the Tigers.

The game didn't start as smoothly for the Titans though, as the Tigers burst onto the floor and forced turnover after turnover.

"We were starting to get tired. I look at that first quarter, we played extremely well, we played extremely hard and our intensity started going," New England head coach Kaine Hanson said. "We kept trying to play hard, but we were tired. That's what hurt us the most."

After the first quarter, Dickinson Trinity led New England 13-10 thanks to a last-second 3-pointer from Stafford. In the second quarter, and even more so in the second half, the Titans eliminated the sloppy turnovers, adjusted their pace, and broke the game open to lead 31-20 at the half.

"I think we just started slowing the game down. We were getting so rushed," junior Seth Herner said. "Coach always tells us at halftime, we're trying too hard to do anything. The easy play is the right play. In the second half, we were just making easy plays."

Herner scored the first of five straight Titans points to start the second half, drawing a New England timeout. After getting back on the floor, Tigers sophomore guard Aidan Rebel drained a 3-pointer, bringing the score to 36-23. Minutes later, Rebel swiped the ball for one of his three steals, missed the initial shot off the backboard, but junior guard Jaxon Hewson was there for the putback, trimming the deficit to 11 points.

The Titans pushed back harder though, putting up 19 points in the third quarter, largely in part to eight points from Knopik who led all players with 18 points. He also picked up a game-high seven boards.

Stafford followed with 14 points, while Herner added eight. Herner also earned three rebounds and a block.

Playing the full 32 minutes, Sorenson contributed nine points, while Hewson led the Tigers with 13 points. Hewson also paced the team with five rebounds, of which New England had 27.

"I just see our team, from where we started to where we are now, we're steadily improving. As long as we keep on this trajectory, I think by the end of the year, I think we'll be in a spot where teams aren't going to want to play us."

Dickinson Trinity 64, New England 37

NE 10 10 11 6

THS 13 18 19 14

NE: Jaxon Hewson 13, Gabe Sorenson 9, Aidan Rebel 9, Zach Madler 4, Cooper Granger 2.

THS: Aric Knopik 18, Matt Stafford 14, Seth Herner 8, Alija Karsky 6, Cole Fitterer 6, Isaac Fridrich 4, Cheydan Hauf 4, Jake Daniel 3, Logan Bentz 1.

3-pointers: NE 2-10 (Sorenson, Rebel 1-4) THS 2-7 (Stafford 1-2, Daniel 1-4). Free throws: NE 5-8, THS 10-19. Total fouls: NE 12, THS 10. Rebounds: NE 27 (Hewson 5), THS 34 (Knopik 7). Assists: NE 2 (Sorenson, Rebel), THS 5 (Herner, Fitterer 1). Steals: NE 9 (Hewson 4), THS 10 (Stafford 4). Blocks: THS 2 (Knopik, Herner). Turnovers: NE 15, THS 12. Records: NE 2-5 (Region 7 0-2), THS 7-3 (Region 7 2-0).