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Post play to drive Tigers boys basketball

NEW ENGLAND -- The New England boys basketball team lost three of its most-used guards from last season in Brady Bender, an elite scorer; Hunter Wolf, the team's main point guard; and Dakotah Mansfield, a pest on the defensive end.

New England senior center Cody Holt, right, defends against Glen Ullin-Hebron in last season's Roughrider Tournament on Dec. 15, 2015, at the Knights of Columbus Activities Center. (Press File Photo)
New England senior center Cody Holt, right, defends against Glen Ullin-Hebron in last season's Roughrider Tournament on Dec. 15, 2015, at the Knights of Columbus Activities Center. (Press File Photo)

NEW ENGLAND - The New England boys basketball team lost three of its most-used guards from last season in Brady Bender, an elite scorer; Hunter Wolf, the team's main point guard; and Dakotah Mansfield, a pest on the defensive end.

All were lost to graduation, which means second-year head coach Shawn Flaherty will see a lot of competition among his remaining guards to fill those spots.

"These kids are competing for time on the floor, and we have six or seven kids that are competing for spots," Flaherty said. "That's always a healthy thing, and it obviously gives you a chance to improve."

Chief among those options, Flaherty said, are juniors Justin Cantwell, John Wolf and Devin Wert.

"Of all of them, Justin Cantwell has some experience. He was a kid that played B squad last year and he got some experience as far as tournament play goes," Flaherty said.

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That guard rotation will be rounded out by junior Nick Rettinger, senior guard/forward Carter Stang, freshman Gabe Sorenson and senior Ivey Gilliland.

"We're going to be searching early on to see who can fill those spots. We'll see who can step up," Flaherty said. "We're going to go through some growing pains, but the kids have been working hard in practice, and we'll see what happens when we open up in the Roughrider."

While the guard position works itself out, the Tigers can take solace in that the forward spots are rock solid.

Junior Denit Sorenson, at 6-foot-1, averaged 8.7 points and 6.4 rebounds last season, and 6-foot-8 senior Cody Holt averaged a double-double with 18.4 points and 12.6 rebounds per game.

The Tigers are strongest from the inside out, so that's how Flaherty intends to start.

"Any time you have a 6-8 kid, you have to utilize him," Flaherty said of Holt. "With their size and experience, that's our biggest strength right now. With Cody's presence, we'll look to rely on him quite a bit."

Sorenson is strong enough to do work down low as well, but he can also step out and be a decent 3-point shooter.

The Tigers lost to eventual champion Dickinson Trinity in the Region 7 Tournament semifinals last season. In order to make it back that far, or to take a step forward, New England will hope its guards buck the learning curve sooner rather than later.

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"We're looking to develop some guard play to go along with those kids," Flaherty said, "and we'll see what happens."

New England Tigers

Head coach: Shawn Flaherty (second season)

2015-16 result: 13-10 overall, lost in Region 7 Tournament semifinals

Returners: Cody Holt, Sr., Carter Stang, Sr., Jayson Koch, Sr., Ivey Gilliland, Sr., Denit Sorenson, Jr., Justin Cantwell, Jr., Devin Wert, Jr., John Wolf, Jr., Nick Rettinger, Jr., Brayden Rayhorn, Jr.

Newcomers: Juan Vidal, Jr.

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