When Ryan Mlnarik is handing out jerseys for the Fremont Bergan youth basketball program, one number is particularly coveted.
“No. 15 gets picked pretty quickly and the kids kind of fight over who gets it,” the Bergan coach said.
No. 15 on the Bergan varsity belongs to Grant Frickenstein. The 6-foot-3 senior closed his prep career by helping the Knights to a runner-up finish last month in the Class D-1 state tournament. For his efforts, Frickenstein is the honorary captain of the Fremont Tribune All-Area Team.
Joining Frickenstein on the first team are Wahoo High teammates Blake Lacey and Winston Cook, Brady Timm of Yutan, Dre Vance of Bergan and North Bend teammates Tanner Wietfeld and John Emanuel.
Frickenstein averaged 20.3 points and 4.8 rebounds per game while leading the Knights to a 19-9 record.
“I think what stands out about Grant for me is his work ethnic,” Mlnarik said. “He is gifted being 6-3 with great leaping ability, but I think he is a self-made player because he has worked so hard at his game.”
Frickenstein had a memorable postseason, including a 31-point effort in a 73-64 win over Fullerton in an opening-round at state.
“I think he played his best basketball at the end of the year,” Mlnarik said. “He didn’t want to be done. I think from the subdistrict tournament on, he was at a different level. You could see it with his play on the floor, the confidence he was playing with and his level of focus. He wanted to get a state championship.”
The Knights fell in the state finals to Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family, but Frickenstein handled the disappointment with class.
“Whenever he faced adversity, I never saw him making excuses or pointing fingers or blaming others,” Mlnarik said of the senior, who faced many gimmick defenses in the past two seasons. “He’s just a good role model for kids.”
Frickenstein plans on playing basketball in college, but is still considering his options.
“I think he is focusing his efforts right now on the track season,” Mlnarik said. “He is doing some good things as a high jumper. Regardless of his college decision, he has made a big impact here at Bergan.”
Vance also had a solid senior season. The 5-11 guard averaged 14.6 points and 3.6 assists per game. He shot 78 percent from the free throw line and drained 57 3-point field goals.
In the championship game loss, Vance had a team-best 18 points and seven assists. He also connected on four 3-point field goals.
“Dre had the ability to score,” Mlnarik said. “We always said he was slippery in that he could slice through a defense. But he also shot close to 40 percent from beyond the arc for us.”
Vance made the move to point guard his junior season and became one of the best in the area.
“As a sophomore, he never played any point guard for us so that was an adjustment as a junior,” Mlnarik said. “He was never a guy with a loud voice, but he ran the team this year. He was in complete control and did a great job for us.”
Vance was the key to the Knights’ success with their transition game.
“He didn’t commit turnovers and he had great court vision,” Mlnarik said. “Guys learned that if they were open when running the floor, Dre would get them the ball. He put the ball where it needed to be. We were more efficient than we’ve ever been this year and that is because our turnovers were way down. That all starts with Dre.”
Timm, a 5-11 sophomore, helped the Chieftains advance to the Class C-2 state championship game where they lost 53-42 to Bancroft-Rosalie/Lyons-Decatur.
“Brady was our floor general,” Yutan coach Justin Petersen said. “He was a beast on both sides of the ball and had a great state tournament.”
Timm had 20 points in a 46-42 semifinal win over Ponca, including hitting 11 of 13 free throws. He scored 25 points in a 55-45 win against Sutton in the opening round.
Timm averaged 12 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds and 2 steals per game.
While Timm was a Class C-2 all-stater, Cook earned that honor at the Class C-1 level.
The 6-5 University of Nebraska at Kearney recruit averaged 20.2 points and 7.6 rebounds for Coach Kevin Scheef.
The Warriors finished fourth in the Class C-1 state tournament, but their quest for a title took a serious blow in an opening-round win over Boys Town. Lacey broke a bone in his leg that required surgery.
“My heart breaks for him to have his high school career end this way,” Scheef said at the time.
Lacey averaged 16.4 points and 2.2 assists per game for the Warriors, who finished 24-5. He was deadly from 3-point range as he connected on 88 of 200 trey attempts (44 percent).
Cook, Lacey and Frickenstein were all selected to play in the 2019 Nebraska Coaches Association All-Star Game scheduled for July 22 at Lincoln North Star. Also chosen to play in the game is Wietfeld.
The 6-2 guard led the Tigers to a runner-up state finish in Class C-1. He averaged 16 points and 5.5 rebounds.
“He was strongly competitive in everything he did,” North Bend coach Jon Baehr said. “He was the type of kid that when things got tough, he got a little bit tougher. I think he was a great teammate and he rose to occasion no matter what we were going through. He just played the game the right way.”
After downing Adams Central 42-37 in the opening round, the Tigers handed Ogallala its only loss of the season with a 66-44 win in the semifinals. Auburn edged North Bend 30-29 in the title game.
“Tanner was an all-tournament selection for Class C-1,” Baehr said. “If you didn’t know who he was going into the state tournament, you definitely took notice of him when he was playing there. I thought he was very poised and played three complete games. He was one of our top scorers this year, but he also guarded one of the opponent’s best offensive players. That is a big job, but he did that in spades in the state tournament.”
Wietfeld finished second on the Tigers’ all-time scoring list with 1,427 points. His older brother Kale is the only player ahead of him.
“He put up a lot of statistics while he was here, but the way he went about his game is what sticks out most for me,” Baehr said.
Emanuel was also a Tribune All-Area selection in football as a wide receiver. In basketball, he averaged 14.3 points and 4.2 rebounds. He finished fifth on the school’s career scoring list with 1,109 points.
“Whatever we wanted him to do, John did it,” Baehr said. “He was a great teammate and very selfless for us.”
That included in the opening round of the C-1 tournament. The 6-2 Emanuel had to defend 6-9 all-state player Haggan Hilgendorf. He helped limit him to 12 points while scoring eight himself.
“He guarded a tremendous player in Hilgendorf,” Baehr said. “By doing that, it allowed us to go with five guards on the floor.”
Wietfeld and Emanuel, who are cousins, helped set an example for future Tigers in leading the team to a 25-4 record.
“They had a love of the game and I think that rubs off on the guys coming up in the program,” Baehr said. “They were phenomenal role models for us. They both left a legacy that will outlive their playing days for sure.”
The second team is led by Wahoo Neumann guard Trey Ahrens. Other second-team selections include Trey Knudsen of Yutan, Austin Callahan of Fremont High School, Blake Anderson of West Point-Beemer, Riley Lindberg of Fremont Bergan and Douglas County West freshman Payson Gillespie.
Brant Hilzendeger, Aiden Foreman, Tanner Pittman, Arlington. Mason Thiesen, Cedar Bluffs. Ty Eggen, Carson Roubicek, Kyle Marick, Douglas County West. Dylan Gartner, Tyten Vance, Thunder Myers, Jake Ridder, Fremont Bergan. Dillon Dix, Triston Keeney, Fremont High. Josh Brester, Lane Hegemann, Blake Sindelar, Luke Rocheford, Howells-Dodge. Connor Larson, Trystain Roseberry, Logan View/Scribner-Snyder. JT Haag, Hunter Pickworth, Mead. Jaxon Wietfeld, Austin Endorf, Chase Ruzicka, North Bend. Colton Thomsen, Wyatt Seagren, Robby Mayberry, Garrison Dodge, Oakland-Craig. Thomas Waido, Trey Scheef, Karson Hesser, Wahoo High. Kobey Simons, Eli Vedral, Wahoo Neumann. Ben Vander Griend, West Point-Beemer. Colby Tichota, Jason Simon, Will Hays, Yutan.