LOOMIS — The Loomis boys returned to the state basketball tournament last year, but didn’t stay long.
Their 18-7 season ended with a loss to Osmond, the eventual runner-up, in the quarterfinals in Lincoln.
Three starters return from that team that made the Wolves’ first state tournament appearance since 2012, and the experience they gained from the state tournament and playing in the Heartland Hoops Classic still is paying off.
Loomis’ strength will be its inside game, led by 6-foot-4 post player Joshua Marcy, and the guard play of Shay Swanson and Quinn Johnson, who earned their starting spots as freshmen last year. Marcy averaged 5.6 points and four rebounds per game last year. Swanson scored at a 9.7 clip and collected 4.4 rebounds per game. Johnson averaged 12.3 points per game.
Other returning lettermen are 5-9 sophomore guard Justus Harvey, 5-8 junior guard Aden Lovitt, 5-9 junior guard Jackson Lauby and 6-0 junior guard Carson Orcutt.
Nolan Benjamin, a transfer who started at quarterback for the Wolves this fall, is expected to contribute as well.
Loomis opens the season Friday at Overton.
The Wolves return three starters from a team that went 16-7 last year, including two who averaged double-figure scoring last year.
Junior Alexis Billeter, a 5-9 guard, led the team scoring 14 points per game. She also averaged four rebounds per game.
Senior forward Darla Thorell, a three-year starter, averaged 12 points and eight rebounds per game.
The third returning starter is Paige Booe, a 5-3 senior, who averaged seven points per game last season.
Other returning letterwinners are sophomore forward Hanna Stewart, sophomore guard Georgia Crandall and sophomore forward Baylee Horner.
“We will rely on our returning experience and fill in the pieces with our newcomers,” said coach Staci Fertig. “If we take control of our mental game, we will be a team that demands respect from our competitors.”
The Loomis/Bertrand WolfKings return three state qualifiers from last season, including Jacob Holmer, who placed fifth last year in the Class C 113-pound weight class. Also back are state qualifiers Trevin Edwards (106 pounds) and John Kenney (132/138). All three won more than 30 matches last year.
Letterman Joel Abramson, who was 28-19 as a sophomore, returns.
“The WolfKings will have a solid group returning with some valuable experience,” coach Dustin Freeman said. “This group of upperclassmen will be looked at to provide leadership for the team throughout the season.
“This group of experienced wrestlers should set the tone in the practice room that is needed for overall team success.”
The trick for the WolfKings will be to spread the talent out to fill the weight classes.
Then comes the trick of getting through the difficult C-4 District. Freeman has put together a tough schedule to prepare for the district that includes Valentine and Broken Bow, which finished 1-2 in state last year, as well as Kearney Catholic, Perkins County and Bridgeport, which finished in the top 20. In addition, Class D’s dynasty, the Amherst Broncos, are in Class C this year and are part of the C-4 District.
“With every wrestler trying to qualify for state it makes for a very grueling test,” Freeman said. “Many high-level wrestlers don’t make it to state out of this district but many of those that do bring home medals.”