Battling for the region title: Dickinson Trinity, New England meet in Region 7 championship

The New England and Trinity boys basketball teams haven't been strangers during tournament play over the past two seasons. The teams have played in the Roughrider Tournament title game in back-to-back seasons and met in the third-place game of la...

Ty Nordby
Press Photo by Royal McGregor New England senior forward Ty Nordby, right, goes up for a layup against Dickinson Trinity’s Joe Mayer, middle, and Brock Messer, left, during the Roughrider Championship on Dec. 20 at Knights of Columbus Activities Center.

The New England and Trinity boys basketball teams haven’t been strangers during tournament play over the past two seasons.
The teams have played in the Roughrider Tournament title game in back-to-back seasons and met in the third-place game of last season’s Region 7 Tournament.
For the first time in 11 years, however, the top-seeded and No. 5-ranked Tigers and third-seeded Titans will play for a region championship at 6:30 p.m. today at Knights of Columbus Activities Center. The winner advances to the Class B state tournament that begins next Thursday at the Bismarck Event Center.
“We have played a lot of important games against New England,” Trinity head coach Gregg Grinsteinner said. “We understand each other. We respect each other. Both programs have gotten to point where they are getting the most out of their kids. They both are peaking at the right time of the year. It’s going to be a wild game. I hope both teams come out and play their very best. It should be an entertaining game for the fans and all-around good basketball game.”
New England and Trinity each won a Roughrider championship, while the Titans won last season’s Region 7 third-place game 55-49.
The Tigers and Titans split their two meetings this season. Trinity defeated New England 52-44 during the Roughrider title game on Dec. 20, but the Tigers responded with a 62-48 victory during the regular season on Jan. 13. Both games were played at Knights of Columbus Activities Center.
New England head coach Luke Powers said the road to the Region 7 championship this season hasn’t been easy and the title game will be no different.
“It just gets tougher, because there’s going to be a tough team that advances out of one side and another tough team that advances out of the other side,” Powers said. “Trinity is well coached and it’s going to be a battle.”
Trinity senior forward Sam Sherer said his team is excited to be playing for the title.
“We’ve had a lot of good games against them over the last two years,” he said. “We think it’s going to be a really good game and I’m just excited to get down to business.”
The Tigers and Titans each have strong inside presences with multiple players 6-foot-3 or taller. They also both have solid perimeter shooters capable of heating up from 3-point range.
Trinity started the season with a 4-7 record.
However, the Titans went on a 12-game win streak, which has spanned the remainder of their regular season and the Region 7 Tournament, and included an 83-82 home victory over No. 1-ranked Four Winds-Minnewaukan on Feb. 21.
“Our season started a little slow and we had some tough games early on,” Trinity senior forward Brett Mortenson said. “We didn’t let up in practice the entire year. We just wanted to keep getting better and now we are here, giving ourselves a chance (to be in the state tournament).”
New England lost two of their first seven games of season but have since rattled off 16 straight wins - the longest win streak in the state. Trinity holds the second-longest win streak.
“The beginning of the season, this was a team with a bunch of talented individuals,” Powers said. “But what happened over the course of the last few months is we became a very talented team. That’s special and, as a coach, it was awfully fun to watch it come together.”
While Trinity has played in five of the last six Region 7 championship games, New England hasn’t been as fortunate.
The last time New England played for a Region 7 championship was in 2004 when it lost to eventual state champion Trinity 70-54. The Tigers last made the state tournament in both 1996 and 1997.
Tigers sophomore center Cody Holt, who had 14 points and six rebounds in the 73-65 semifinals win against Hettinger-Scranton on Tuesday, said New England is relishing the opportunity to play for a spot in the state tournament in his first season on the team.
“It feels great and everybody is super excited,” Holt said after the Tuesday’s game against Hettinger-Scranton. “This is the first time that we’ve all been this far.”
Grinsteinner said no matter which team comes out on top, that team deserves to hoist the Region 7 championship trophy.
“Whoever wins this game is going be very battle tested for the state tournament,” Grinsteinner said. “The one thing I really appreciate is how this region is so well coached, the number of athletes that are at different schools and you have adopt a different style of basketball. It isn’t just one style of basketball in this region. That’s one thing that us and New England have been able to do is play small at times, play big at times, run the floor and play the half-court game. You have to play a variety of styles and I think you are going to see that (tonight).”

McGregor is the sports editor of The Dickinson Press. Call him at 701-456-1214 and tweet him at SirRoyal.

Joe Mayer
Press Photo by Royal McGregor Dickinson Trinity senior guard Joe Mayer, back, goes up for a jump shot against New England senior Mason Stang on Jan. 13 at Knights of Columbus Activities Center.

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