NCHS hoopsters are bouncing back

2-20 is a long climb up to get back on top, but Tiger seniors Jake Heil, Dylan Miller, Ryan Gilkey, Cole Hart and Jarit Krejci are hoping to turn it around. “I think the main goal is having a better season than last year,” said Hart. Heil added, “And we want to get to regionals at Torrington.”

Heil, Miller and Gilkey have each played two years of varsity and are expected to increase their scoring, rebounding, defense and leadership if the Tigers are to improve. “We’ve got a nice mix of older guys with experience, and some young talent that wants playing time,” said Head Coach Ryan Nelson. “And for the first time in several years, we’re going to have a lot of size in the paint, but we’re going to need some tenacity from those two.”

Every other team in the conference graduated skilled posts, so this could be a reversal of fortune for Lusk. “We might be bigger than almost everybody in the conference-as far as depth-wise we go five deep that are between 6’2” and 6’4”, said Nelson. Rebounding should be a strength for the Tigers, which will help as outside shooting is suspect at this point. “But with our length, I think the defense will be improved,” he added.

Underclassmen expected to make big strides include juniors Alec Penfield, Teagan Tschacher, Jayden Matthews, Declan Jensen and Jacob Miller. “They’ve got to decide how committed they want to be,” noted Nelson.  Sophomore James Stone has improved his ballhandling skills and strength from last season and 6’3” freshman Ryan Bruegger will also figure into the varsity mix. Five other young players will fill out the C squad.

Nelson and assistant Andie Hubbard enter their second season on the sideline together, and former Tiger Taten Gaukel will join the staff in January as a graduate assistant.

Defending state champ Wind River is again the favorite while Pine Bluffs, Rocky Mountain, Wyoming Indian and Lovell round out the WyoPreps preseason top five. Big Horn, Glenrock, Upton and Southeast are also expected to be solid in the 2A East. Nelson expects a lot of parity among the East’s 11 teams, and hopes his team can gel as late February rolls around. 

NCHS opens at the Coal Miner’s Classic at Wright Friday against Big Horn at 3:30 p.m., followed by a game against the home team at 8 p.m. On Saturday the Tigers face Greybull at 12:30 p.m.

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