Staff Photographer

Kearney High’s Seth Stroh eyes the basket during last year’s game with Papillion-La Vista. Stroh is the leading scorer and rebounder returning from last year’s 20-6 team.

KEARNEY — For the past handful of years, Kearney High has seen two of its best-ever players put on the Bearcat basketball uniform.

But Kanon Koster and Shiloh Robinson are off to the college ranks and it’s time to enter the next era.

“We’ve obviously lost some pretty good players the last couple years. We have two playing Division I basketball and one walking on at UNK. And we had some more guys who were phenomenal in their roles,” said coach Drake Beranek, who is entering his fifth year as the Bearcats’ coach. “In any good program you’re going to continually lose guys that you loved having on the floor. That’s the best part about it. These younger kids are guys who are in different roles this year and they were able to watch the kids in front of them have success. ... They know the recipe it takes to be successful at Kearney High. Now it’s about taking their abilities and doing the same thing and trying to take it one step further.”

The Bearcats return only two starters from last year’s 20-6 team, but have seven other lettermen in the fold ready to take that next step.

Seniors Seth Stroh and Colin Murray gained the most experience last year. Stroh, a 6-4 forward, was Kearney’s second-leading scorer (12.8 ppg) and rebounder (7.5 rpg) last year. Murray, a 6-1 shooting guard, added 6.6 points per game while leading the team in 3-pointers.

“Anytime you’re going to have success, you have to have some senior leadership. Those two guys have been pretty fortunate to get pretty good experience up to this point. They’ll definitely have to help show the way for some of these younger guys who are going to be put into some spots they haven’t been into,” Beranek said. “Seth’s obviously a good athlete who’s able to finish around the basket really well. ... Colin is just a great communicator and does all the little thing you want out of a basketball player. And, he’s able to shoot it.”

Filling out the roster are 6-6 senior forward Nate Jacobsen, 6-0 senior guard Travis Sherbeck, 6-3 junior guard Jack Johnson, 6-2 junior guard Preston Pearson, 5-9 junior guard Easton Bruce, 6-3 junior guard Trevor Cumpston and 6-6 sophomore forward Will Vanderbeek.

Jacobsen and Vanderbeek will help ease the loss of Robinson, who was one of the top post players in the state.

“We’re undersized compared to year’s past,” Beranek said. “But Seth can hold his own and Nate Jacobsen is a 6-4 guy who’s real bouncy and he’s tough.”

Beranek described Vanderbeek as “springy.”

“We’ve got some pieces. It’s just how can we fit them together to be the best we can possibly be,” Beranek said. “We have a lot of guys who put a lot of hard work into their game and it’s fun to see what they can do when it’s their turn.”