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No. 5-ranked New England edges Cougars

SOUTH HEART -- The No. 5-ranked New England boys basketball team had to weather a storm named Blayne Smith. The Heart River senior guard supplied 29 points -- which included seven 3 pointers. The Tigers managed to outlast the storm en route to a ...

Brady Bender
Press Photo by Royal McGregor New England junior guard Brady Bender, right, goes up for a layup against Heart River junior forward Cole Olson during a Region 7 game on Tuesday at South Heart gymnasium.

SOUTH HEART - The No. 5-ranked New England boys basketball team had to weather a storm named Blayne Smith.
The Heart River senior guard supplied 29 points - which included seven 3 pointers.
The Tigers managed to outlast the storm en route to a 63-58 Region 7 win over the Cougars in front of a packed house at South Heart gymnasium.
“This place was absolutely awesome,” New England head coach Luke Powers said about the deafening crowd noise. “It was fun for the kids to play in. I’m sure it was fun the Heart River kids to play in. It was fun to coach in. All-around this was a great great night and it’s a shame that someone had to lose this game.”
With a 15-point lead at halftime, Heart River chipped away a big chunk in the third period. The Cougars outscored the Tigers 20-9 in the third frame, which was 12 points from Smith.
The Heart River senior credits his teammates for giving him open looks the entire contest.
“My teammates found me and I just tried to hit shots,” Smith said with a smile.
Powers had some high praise for Smith after the game.
“I told him after the game, ‘That was as impressive of a performance from a high school kid at this level that I’ve seen since I’ve been out here in North Dakota,’” Powers said.
To start the second half, Heart River head coach Greg Pruitt was put between a rock and hard place as three of the five starters have three fouls.
He said it was important the players stayed fundamentally sound in the final 16 minutes.
“We are going to get a lot out of this game,” Pruitt said. “It’s going to get us ready for that regional tournament.”
During the fourth quarter, the Cougars took their first lead - 45-44 - on a Smith 3-pointer.
However, that was the only lead Heart River would hold for the remainder of the contest. New England senior forward Ty Nordby supplied back-to-back layups to give the team a 48-45 lead. The Tigers extended their lead to as much as eight points - 61-53- after a Daniel Prince free throw.
Nordby and Prince each supplied double-digit points with 15 and 13, respectively. Nordby rounded out the double-double with 11 rebounds, while Prince added seven rebounds, four assists and three steals.
However, the lead is never safe when Heart River’s 3-point parade is on display. The Cougars finished 10 3-pointers and Dion Madler, who spent a majority of the game sidelined after picking up three fouls in the first half, had the team within four points in the final 13 seconds. Madler had 10 points, four rebounds and four assists.
Nordby sank a free throw for the game’s final point, which helped the Tigers keep a two-possession game.
“We knew we had to keep going,” said New England junior guard Brady Bender, who finished with 12 points and three assists. “They were just nailing them from behind the line, but we figured it out a little bit and got the job done.”
New England was 21 of 42 from the field, while Heart River finished with a 37 shooting percentage (16-43). The Tigers have five more trips to the free-throw line and grabbed five more rebounds than the Cougars.
The Tigers and Cougars each have three more Region 7 games left.
Though New England is in the driver’s seat for the top seed for the Region 7 Tournament, Bender said the team is just focused on improving each day.
“We just have to keep going hard,” Bender said.
NE 18 35 44 63
HR 11 20 40 58
NE: Ty Nordby 15, Daniel Prince 13, Brady Bender 12, John Urlacher 9, Cody Holt 8, Mason Stang 6.
HR: Blayne Smith 29, Dion Madler 10, Cade Shypkoski 7, Seth Privratsky 7, Zane Besler 3, Cole Olson 2.
3-pointers: NE 3 (Urlacher 2, Bender 1), HR 10 (Smith 7, Shypkoski 2, Madler 1). Free throws: NE 18-32, HR 16-27. Total fouls: NE 20, HR 26. Fouled out: HR, Olson; Smith. Rebounds: NE 29 (Nordby 11), HR 24 (Privratsky 8). Assists: NE 8 (Prince 4), HR 13 (Olson 4, Madler 4). Steals: NE 6 (Prince 3), HR 4 (Privratsky 2, Madler 2). Blocks: NE 1 (Holt 1), HR 0. Turnovers: NE 15, HR 14. Records: NE 15-2 (9-0 Region 7), HR 14-4 (7-2 Region 7).

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