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Tigers advance in regional tourney with win over Beach

New England downs Beach 57-50 to advance in Class B Region 7 tourney.

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Beach sophomore Trey Swanson attempted to keep his team in the game against New England with 14, but the team fell 57-50 on Monday. (Matthew Curry/The Dickinson Press)

The weather is finally beginning to heat up with the beginning of spring just around the corner. So too are the tensions that accompany playoff basketball. As was the case on Monday when the New England Tigers boys basketball team hosted the Beach Buccaneers in a long awaited rematch for the Tigers, teams show up to playoffs with a ‘win-or-go-home’ mindset...because it is.

The Tigers and Buccaneers met once during the regular season, with the Tigers (13-9) falling to the Buccaneers (8-14) in a 65-57 upset this January. Nearly two months later and the pairing met up again in the first round of the 2021 Class B Region 7 tournament.

One one side of the court was eighth-seeded New England and on the other ninth-seeded Beach. The teams played a much different game leading to a 57-50 victory for the Tigers over the Bucs.

“We feel great as a team,” Head Coach Kaine Hanson said. “We had three goals going into this season and this tournament. Our first goal was to get a home play-in game, which we got. Our second goal was to win the home play-in game and make it to the final eight; and our third goal was, once we got into regionals, make a little noise.”

“We accomplished our first two goals for the season and now onto our third goal, we just got to look towards that and accomplish that,” Hanson added.

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As for Beach, the young roster played to the best of its abilities, as it had all season, but while the team was able to block the Tigers’ ferocious attacks in the first battle, the same could not be said in the rematch.

“We had a game plan but didn’t really play to it well,” Beach Head Coach Al Swanson said. “My boys worked their butts off throughout the whole season and we did it without a senior on the team.”

New England senior Aidan Rebel led his unit throughout the battle as he had all season, finishing with 27 points. Rebel proved to be hot from the field early in the contest by scoring 12 of the team’s 14 points in the first quarter and nearly matching Beach’s leading scorer of the game in Trey Swanson who finished with 14.

Beach trailed 14-8 to end the first quarter, but found its scoring rhythm in the second quarter, finishing with 14 points. On the contrary, Rebel’s hot shooting carried into the second quarter by scoring eight of the team’s 18, giving New England a 32-22 lead at halftime.

With the game, and season, seemingly hanging off the edge of a hypothetical cliff, the Buccaneers began to clash in the post with the Tigers and add more physicality in the third quarter on the defensive end. As a result, the Buc’s completed a comeback by outsourcing the Tigers 17-6 in the third, taking a 39-38 lead to end the third.

Rebel did not score a single point in the quarter.

Desperate to not have its season end on its home court in front of a packed New England crowd, the Tigers began to claw past the Buc’s physicality and clench its mighty defensive jaws in the post. Rebel also returned to the scoring column with four points, helping the Tigers outscore Beach 19-11, closing out the game 57-50.

Swanson gave credit to New England’s senior captain for his leading efforts in the team’s victory.

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“Rebel just had a great game,” Swanson said. “He was just a handful to guard.”

As with any season coming to a close comes the emotional toll of saying farewell. Luckily for the Buccaneers, the team is only bid a temporary adu as the team will lose no seniors and is set to have a return of all its players next season.

“It’s almost like the season didn’t really end for us because I didn’t have to say goodbye to a [senior],” Swanson said. “It was like ‘boys, I will see you in a couple of weeks, we’ll start doing some spring ball, hopefully get some good scrimmages going, get the ball in our hands this summer and hit the weight room.”

As for New England, the team now prepares for a tough opponent in top-seeded Beulah on March 5. Luckily, the team will have nearly a week to prepare for a shot at redemption and a major upset over the Miners. The Tigers previously lost to the Miners 73-28 when the teams battled in mid-January.

“I’m just telling our guys that we’re a completely different team than the last time we played Beulah, we’re a different team, we’ve gotten a lot better,” Hanson said. “The second thing I'm telling them is once you get into that tournament, we have to play like we got nothing to lose as we go in as the eighth seed.”

Hanson added, “Sometimes that’s scary when you’re the eighth seed because this team has nothing to lose any more so we’re going to go out, whatever happens, happens. That’s why you see all of these upsets in March Madness with the lower seeds who have nothing to lose but fight and scrap.”

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Matthew Curry is a sports reporter and photographer for the West Central Tribune.
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