New era in New England

After heading the New England boys basketball team through much of the 1980s, Shawn Flaherty returned to the Tigers in 2015 following a 26-year absence from the black and orange sidelines.

Senior Tanner Zentner led the Wildfire with 29 points against New England in the Roughrider Tournament on Tuesday, Dec. 12 at the Knights of Columbus Activities Center. (Shelby Reardon / The Dickinson Press)
New England players swarm Mott-Regent senior guard Tanner Zentner on the defensive end during the 2017 Roughrider Tournament on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017, from the Knights of Columbus Activities Center. (Shelby Reardon/The Dickinson Press)

After heading the New England boys basketball team through much of the 1980s, Shawn Flaherty returned to the Tigers in 2015 following a 26-year absence from the black and orange sidelines.
Guiding the program to a 33-36 record over the last three years, which included a third-place finish in the 2016 Region 7 tournament, Flaherty stepped down from his head coaching position at the conclusion of the 2017-18 season.

Flaherty's exit paved the way for first-year head coach Kaine Hanson, who graduated from New England in 2012. He was a member of Flaherty's coaching staff over the last two years.
"I learned a great deal under (Flaherty)," Hanson said. "I'm thankful for being able to coach under someone who has had 40-plus years of coaching experience, so I learned a lot in those two years, probably more than I would've learned in 10 years of coaching on my own,"
Hanson is part of a major shakeup in the local coaching ranks, as half of the 12 Region 7 teams will be under new leadership. He was previously in charge of the Tigers' freshman team during his years as an assistant. While his promotion doesn't mark a return like his predecessor, it does mean that his career with the program has come full circle.

"I think it's an awesome opportunity; six years later I'm the head coach of a team I once played for. I think that's pretty cool," Hanson said. "These guys were in elementary school when I was in school here, so I knew them when they were younger kids. ... It's just really been cool to see the guys get older, progress and get better as a team."

As for the cast of characters Hanson will coach, the roster will be without six graduates from a year ago. The inexperience on the hardwood this year figures to present several challenges, particularly on one side of the floor.

"With youth especially, defense is hard, just buying in on that defensive end and really communicating. That's something that those seniors that played together for a while, they had that feel," Hanson said. "These younger guys, we have to really teach them how to talk, how to move on defense, and that's what we are really emphasizing."


New England is low in the senior department this season. Forward Zach Madler, listed among the squad's tallest players at 6-foot-2, is expected to be the team's leader as its only senior.

However, the Tigers do have a large class of potential junior contributors. Standing at 5-foot-10, guard Gabe Sorenson is joined by forwards Jaxon Hewson, Logan Wolf, Joseph Harmon and Michael Frank, all of whom the coaches are counting on to take the next step.

Hanson is preparing his team to execute a variety of defenses, but it will operate primarily out of the man-to-man defense. Additionally with the team being undersized, the Tigers will look to utilize their speed and quickness to pressure the basketball, create turnovers and produce easy buckets.

They'll look to exhibit that tempo on the offensive end as well, as New England plans to run and play with pace.

That up-and-down style of play is what the coaching staff envisions down the line, but it knows that the team is currently far from a finished product. But regardless of the work that has to be done through the year, Hanson is entering the season with sky-high goals.

"I'm just expecting our guys to get better every single day, come to practice and work hard. I know we're young so it's going to take a while, but by the end of the year, I expect us to be in the top four or five teams in the region," Hanson said. "I know that might shock some people because we're so young, but I think if they keep working like they are, I think that's a reasonable expectation for us; to be in that second round of regionals with a chance to go to the championship game."

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