LUSK – Niobrara County High School made improvements in Eddie Fullmer’s second season as the head boys’ basketball coach. As the Tigers enter the 2020-21 season, assistant Andie Hubbard enters her fifth season in the program and third with Fullmer. The pair has created a chemistry and common goal for Tiger basketball.
“A lot of our philosophies are similar, and that’s what makes it fun to do this,” said Fullmer.
Hubbard added, “We can bounce ideas back and forth, they don’t always work, but we’re on the same page and the kids know what to expect now.”
Five seniors graduated last spring, and while the cupboard isn’t empty, there certainly aren’t a lot of bodies on the squad this winter. Fullmer and Hubbard have just 14 players, but the one everyone will be watching is 6-foot, 5-inch senior Ryan Bruegger.
He is a two-time all-conference player and has also led the state in blocks (all classes) twice. Aric Eaton is the other senior and a two-time letter winner. Eaton’s defensive ability will be an asset for a team with limited depth.
The junior varsity team posted an 18-6 record last season behind Eaton and juniors Jayce Cummins, Walker Kupke, Dylan Molzahn and Mason Wells. They are coming off a successful football season and will take on much bigger roles on the hardcourt this season. Freshman Cory Bruegger will also see varsity minutes at the guard position for the Tigers.
“I think we’re coming into the season a little more pumped up,” said Ryan Bruegger. “And I think we have an opportunity to get to state in this new format.”
What he is referring to is the sub-regionals leading up to the 2A East Regional playoffs. NCHS, Glenrock and Pine Bluffs will all play and be joined by the number five team from the northeast. One win qualifies a team for state.
The elder Bruegger, Molzahn and Wells will be one of the biggest frontcourts in the East, while Kupke, Eaton and Cummins will run a speedy, defensive backcourt. After that, the experience drops off, yet the seven newcomers are working hard to learn the system.
“That’s maybe the biggest challenge in practice so far,” said Fullmer. “The varsity guys want to go hard but there’s such a big gap right now, yet they’re being patient.”
Other teams to watch include Pine Bluffs, Sundance and Big Horn in the 2A East, while two-time defending state champion Wyoming Indian’s season hangs in limbo. Rocky Mountain, Shoshoni and Wind River are the other teams from the West to watch out for.
NCHS opens the season at home with Kaycee and Tongue River visiting Tiger Gym on Friday.
The junior varsity team gets the action started at 10 a.m. against Kaycee, followed by the varsity facing the Bucs at 11:45. Kaycee and Tongue River play the JV game at 1:30 p.m. and varsity at 3:15. NCHS wraps up against the Eagles with the JV contest at 5 p.m. and varsity at 6:45.
Seating will be limited and masks required.