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Boys hoop talent assure a winter of quality hoops
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Boys hoop talent assure a winter of quality hoops

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YORK – As the calendar approaches the end of November, the high school boys’ basketball season draws near. The first area teams tip off their seasons on Thursday, Dec. 2, so it’s time to take a look at some of the top returners in the YNT coverage area based off of 2020 stats and postseason accolades.

Cory Hollinger, SR., Cross County

Hollinger nearly averaged a double-double for his junior season, as he notched 17.3 points and 9.6 rebounds per game for the Cougars. He racked up a season-high 32 points against Friend and cracked the 20-point mark 11 times last winter.

In addition to his scoring volume, Hollinger was also efficient with his touches last season. He shot 57 percent from the floor and 37 percent from beyond the arc – both good enough to rank inside the top five among area leaders – while also converting at a 66 percent clip from the free throw line.

Last season, Cross County head coach Jimmy Blex said Hollinger “works harder than anybody I’ve ever coached.” Hollinger earned first-team all-Crossroads Conference honors and was a member of the YNT all-area team.

Trajan Arbuck, SR., Heartland

On any given night during his junior year, Arbuck could easily take over the game for the Huskies. He averaged 20 points a game for the year and eclipsed the 30-point mark on three separate occasions while still shooting 52 percent from the floor. Arbuck’s offensive prowess helped him surpass 1,000 career points during the 2020 season.

Arbuck connected on 37 of 120 shots from beyond the arc, hitting at a 31 percent clip, and also converted 61 percent of the time from the charity stripe. Even when he wasn’t scoring, Arbuck was facilitating offensive chances for teammates as he dished out 6.1 assists per game and added 3.8 steals a contest.

“Trajan hit 1,000 career points this season. He was first team all-conference SNC and he was our best offensive scorer for us this season,” Heartland head coach Erik Wetjen after the end of last season. “Trajan’s best part of his game is he finishes tough shots. Most of the time he gets fouled on those tough takes to the hoop.”

Arbuck earned first-team all-Southern Nebraska Conference honors and was a YNT all-area selection.

Jake Bargen, SR., Centennial

Bargen formed a solid 1-2 punch with since-graduated Cooper Gierhan for the Broncos last season, averaging 14.3 points a game as a junior. Bargen connected on just under half of his shot attempts last year, going 131-of-270 from the floor.

He notched a season-high 32 points on Jan. 8 and reached double figures in all but six games fpr Centennial last season as the Broncos reached the district finals. Bargen also provided a reliable presence at the charity stripe, converting 58 of 76 free throws and connecting at a 76 percent clip.

“Jake made another huge step this year in his growth as a basketball player,” Broncos head coach Cam Scholl said at the end of the season. “He is a great inside/outside threat as well as he guarded the other team’s best player every night. He is also a much improved creator for his teammates and was our primary ball handler.”

Bargen earned second-team all-SNC honors and was a member of the YNT all-area team.

Kale Wetjen, SR., Heartland

Wetjen averaged 6.3 points and 7.9 rebounds a game while anchoring the Huskies defensively last winter. He scored a season-high 16 points against Sutton and notched 11 assists against Exeter-Milligan.

“Kale was our best defensive player. He played out of position all year because of the graduation of Jared Nunnenkamp,” Heartland head coach Erik Wetjen said at the end of the year. “He went from point guard last season to forward. He still had good assists and steals for someone who played mostly inside. He has great ability to see the floor and find teammates in full-court transition after he got the rebound.”

Wetjen was a third-team all-SNC selection and a member of the YNT all-area team.

Isaiah Lauby, SR., Fillmore Central

Lauby spent his junior season as the Panther’s main offensive threat, often drawing the most attention from opposing defenses. He scored 9.5 points per game and grabbed six boards a night.

Increased efficiency from beyond the arc could make Lauby’s offensive capabilities even greater, as he knocked down 32 of 121 shots from long range in 2020 but connected just 26 percent of the time. Lauby also converted 71 percent of his chances from the charity stripe (25 of 35).

“Often, Isaiah was the focus of our opponents’ defense and was hugged,” Fillmore Central head coach Jordan High said at the conclusion of the Panthers’ season. “He really improved on his rebounding this year from last year. He started the year shooting the ball really well and only fell off once teams started to extend their defense out on him.”

He earned a spot on the YNT all-area team for his performance last season.

Trey Richert, JR., Nebraska Lutheran

The Knights’ sharpshooter served as a critical offensive catalyst as a sophomore, as Richert averaged 14.5 points a game and shot 41 percent from the floor. He shattered Nebraska Lutheran’s single-game scoring record against Dorchester on Feb. 4, dropping 44 points on 16 of 24 shooting – including a sizzling 7-of-14 from beyond the arc.

Richert buried 52 triples last winter and wasn’t terribly inefficient with his touches, connecting on 35 percent of his attempts from long range.

“Trey struggled at times this year (especially from the line) but was being constantly face-guarded,” Knights head coach Chris Beagle said at the end of the season. “He battled injury down the stretch of the year. He broke the school record with 44 points in a game. He is one of the best, if not the best shooter in the area. The sky is the limit.”

In addition to earning mention on the YNT all-area team, Richert was a second-team all-CRC selection.

Lane Zimmer, JR., Centennial

Zimmer will likely play a bigger role in the offense as a junior after averaging just 5.3 points and 5.1 rebounds a night last season. A promising sign if he does take on an extended workload: Zimmer was efficient with his chances as a sophomore, shooting 57 percent from the floor.

He cracked double figures in points twice and rebounds once last season, scoring a season-high 21 points against Doniphan-Trumbull on 8-of-9 shooting. He was a YNT all-area honorable mention in 2020.

Trev Peters, JR., Heartland

Arbuck may have had the ability to take over games, but Peters provided a reliable secondary scoring option for the Huskies as a sophomore. He averaged 15.9 points per game and cracked double figures 17 times in 20 chances – including five outings in which he scored at least 20 points.

Peters’ best offensive performance came in a 34-point, five-assist, three-rebound outburst against Exeter-Milligan. On the season, he shot 45 percent from the floor, 32 percent from three-point range and 71 percent from the free throw line. Peters earned YNT all-area honorable mention for his performance.

Austin Phinney, JR., York

Phinney is the Dukes’ lone returning starter from a 6-15 campaign last winter, when he averaged five points and almost six rebounds an outing.

“Austin is an overall athlete and he is our energy guy,” York head coach Scott Lamberty said of Phinney as he begins his junior season.

Phinney earned honorable mention from the Central Conference, Omaha World-Herald and Lincoln Journal Star and was a YNT all-area honorable mention for the Dukes.

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