Boys Basketball Prepares for 2020-21 Season With High Hopes

Cougars Join New Conference, Look to Improve on Last Year’s 12-13 Record

The Conestoga Boys Basketball team readies for upcoming season.

MURRAY, NEB.–As the winter sports season rolls around, the sound of basketballs thumping the hardwood has become a familiar noise echoing through the halls of Conestoga Jr/Sr High School. For the last couple weeks, and really since last season has ended, the Conestoga Boys Basketball team has been itching to get back in the gym and improve on their 12-13 record from 2019, a 27 year best. Come December 3, every second spent on the court this offseason will be put to the test.

The Conestoga Boys Basketball team returns seven letter winners and their top two scorers: seniors Lane Fox and Ben Welch. Along with the returning production, the Cougars are also bringing in six new freshmen and one new sophomore.

The Cougars will join the Capitol Conference in 2020, joining Ashland-Greenwood, Yutan, and Louisville among others. The new conference will feature an end of the year conference championship, something that Head Coach Jason Ahrens says will be a main difference from the East Central Nebraska Conference, which the Cougars were a member of last year.

“It should be fun competing against new teams. All these schools are around our size, a couple of them in our district so it’ll be fun seeing a whole new group of teams and people,” said Ahrens.

Conestoga also has welcomed in new assistant coach, Nick Hegge. Coach Hegge coached girls basketball at Logan View for nine years, and is a solid addition to the squad.

Mr. Hegge has only been at Conestoga for a couple of months, but to him it already feels like home. “So far it’s been great, the students have been welcoming, the staff has been incredibly welcoming, they’ve really made it feel like a new home,” says Coach Hegge. The students and staff at Conestoga have made a warm welcome to their new basketball coach, and are hoping for a good season this year.

As always, the new season brings high expectations. As the Cougars finished out their best five-year record in school history, and they return two All-Conference players, the people of Conestoga are expecting a promising season.

Coach Ahrens feels the Cougars will be very competitive this year, but he says there are a few things they need to improve on first. “We need to be better defensively. We also need to be better in the paint, on the glass,” said Ahrens.

Fox is hopeful for the upcoming season and thinks that the Cougars can do some damage. “I think we’ve looked pretty good. So far we seem quite a bit more aggressive when getting boards and our defense too, but those could come with size. At open gyms I feel like it’s a lot harder to score because we’ve got some dawgs out on the court that are wanting to ‘D-up’,” said Fox.

The main point of growth that most people notice is the leap in height of the Cougars. Last year, Conestoga had two players above the six foot mark, but this year they will start the year with eight players over six foot.

The Cougars have their eyes set on the prize this year, and many players believe the team can accomplish great things. For most players, a winning record and a conference title are what’s on their mind.

Conestoga Seniors (left to right) Tobias Nolting, Koby Vogler, Ben Welch, and Lane Fox look to cap off their historic careers with a successful 2020-21 campaign. (Olivia Priefert)

This senior class, featuring Lane Fox, Tobias Nolting, Koby Vogler, and Ben Welch has built a strong culture within Conestoga’s basketball program. The family-like camaraderie is what makes this team who it is, and why most players have stuck with the Cougar Basketball program.

“We all enjoy working together… for one goal,” says Sophomore guard Jack Welch.

Coach Ahrens believes that this Senior class has played a huge role in the program’s culture: “They have been awesome to work with. I think they’ve enhanced our culture. I think the group goal of any class is to leave a program better than when you arrived in it and they have definitely moved ours forward. Most of that is because they put time in the gym and they like playing basketball. Those things affect me deeply.”

Conestoga boys basketball has been a widely watched sport at the school for many years and never seems to disappoint. As the season begins, fans are eager to get in the stands and watch their friends and favorite team play the beloved sport.

Though the season will feature family-only attendance, fans will be able to cheer on their Cougars at home on the Conestoga Broadcasting YouTube channel.

The boys open their season at Louisville on Dec. 3.