REPORT FROM THE HARDWOOD
JEREMY WALTNER – EDITOR & PUBLISHER
For those who have been waiting for the tide to turn for the Freeman Public boys basketball program, it appears that time has finally arrived.
More than midway through this 2022-23 hoops campaign, the Flyers are settling into a rhythm paced by both leadership that has grown through the struggles of recent years and a group of underclassmen that fans have been excited about for some time. The Freeman boys are sitting at 3-9 and would be 5-7 had they not given up last-second three-pointers against Parker on Jan. 10 and Kimball-White Lake last Saturday — games they ended up losing in double overtime and overtime, respectively.
The Flyers’ three wins are more than the boys earned in each of the previous three season combined — a stretch from 2019 to 2022 in which they played to a combined record of 2-60. But second-year head coach Lance Friesen has his team playing a competitive brand of basketball that could very well result in a better final season record than the Flyers played to during the 2018-19 season, when they finished 7-13.
Fact is, based on how well they have been playing as of late and the records of their upcoming opponents, six of the Freeman boys’ final seven games are winnable: They include Avon (1-7) on Jan. 27, Alcester-Hudson (3-8) on Feb. 2, Scotland (3-6) on Feb. 4, Hanson (5-4) on Feb. 7, Corsica-Stickney (3-7) on Feb. 9 and Gayville-Volin (4-6) on Feb. 24.
Freeman biggest challenge with be an Ethan team that is 9-1 and has received votes in the Class B poll; the Flyers travel to face the Rustlers on Feb. 14.
And looking at this year’s varsity roster, there is every reason to be optimistic about what’s ahead. There’s only one senior playing (Ethan Balvin), two starting freshmen (Luke Peters and Tate Sorensen) and three seventh graders (including David Walter, who earlier this season set the school record for rebounds with 19) are providing energy and excitement in the camp. Here’s a closer look at the varsity roster.
Seniors: Ethan Balvin
Juniors: Rocky Ammann, Dillon Podzimek and Evan Scharberg
Sophomores: Christopher Aasen and Sawyer Wipf
Freshmen: Luke Peters and Tate Soresen
Seventh graders: Tayden Kerrigan, Luke Miller and David Walter
In addition to Friesen, the boys are being coached by assistants Kyle Weier and Jim Thorson.
Freeman Public girls
The Freeman High School girls are also enjoying a promising season highlighted by a 44-41 Jan. 13 win over McCook Central/Montrose — a Class A team that has historically had the upper hand against the Flyers. The Freeman girls have won six of their last seven and will take an 8-5 record into their home game against Canistota Thursday night.
Like the boys, this year’s varsity team is being fueled by leadership in two senior starters (Kate Miller and Erin Uecker) and promising up-and-comers (including eighth grader Rylee Peters and freshman Vaida Ammann). And second-year head coach Jenny Peters is being assisted by Kent Mueller, a Freeman native and successful coach at West Central who has returned to help lead the program.
While they’ve been playing well as of late, the Flyers will be tested late this season in games against Hanson (9-3) and Ethan (8-2), and will have to play well if they want to be one of two teams to get out of Region 4B, which includes Class B No. 1 (and defending state champion Viborg-Hurley) and Class B No. 3 Centerville.
Here’s the full varsity roster.
Seniors: Alyssa Dent, Kate Miller and Erin Uecker
Juniors: Cami Fransen and Ashlin Jacobsen
Sophomores: Lindsey Maske, Justice Mehlhaf, Peyton McCune and Ella Waltner
Freshman: Vaida Ammann
Eighth graders: Cadence Hofer, Rylee Peters and Claire Loofbourrow
One year after playing to a program-best 22-5 record and the first state basketball tournament in Freeman Academy history, the FA/Marion boys are continuing to win more times out than not.
The Bearcats, who are once again being led by head coach Austin Unruh — assisted by Carson Gross and Braedon Wallenstein — took a 6-3 record into Tuesday’s game against Bridgewater-Emery and should finish this season well above .500. Doing much of the damage have been seniors Maddox Kihne and Matt Hagen, who were key contributors in last season’s state tournament run, and eyes are also on a promising freshman class from Marion.
Missing from action, though, is senior Connor Epp, who has been rehabilitating a torn ACL sustained last summer. Unruh is hopeful that his star point guard will return to action yet this season.
Here’s the Bearcats’ full varsity roster.
Seniors: Jess Bashige, Connor Epp, Simeon Eremin, Matt Hagen and Maddox Kihne
Juniors: Liam Ortman and Aryan Saravanan
Sophomores: Elshadai Mesfin
Freshmen: Jackson Donlan, Taylor Goodwin and Karter Weber
Victories against winless Colome and Mitchell Christian got the Freeman Academy/Marion girls off to a good start, but the Bearcats have played to 2-8 record since and will take a 4-8 mark into Thursday’s game against Irene-Wakonda in Sterling Hall.
But more wins will likely be coming for the Nathan Epp-led squad; FA/Marion will face Marty (2-6) on Jan. 31, Gayville-Volin (2-8) on Feb. 7 and Menno (2-10) to close out the regular season on Feb. 16. That means the Bearcats will likely finish the season ahead of last year’s record of 4-17.
Among the leaders on this year’s team is Marion senior point guard Alivea Weber and Freeman Academy senior Jada Koerner, who is closing in on 1,000 career points. In addition to Epp, the Bearcats are being led by assistant coach Jerico Shape.
Here’s the full varsity roster.
Seniors: Leah Goodwin, Jada Koerner and Alivea Weber
Juniors: Alexa Gortmaker and Hadley Luke
Sophomores: Sieta Wiersema
Freshmen: Macy Gortmaker, Kallie Johnson, Anna Olson and Estelle Waltner
Both the boys and girls basketball teams from Menno are no doubt hopeful that more wins will be coming their way in the final weeks of the season — and they should. Both squads were standing at just two wins heading into Tuesday’s home doubleheader against Gayville-Volin, with the boys at 2-7 and the girls at 2-10, but there lies potential within each squad.
For the boys, of the 14 who make up the varsity roster, 10 are seniors while the girls are five strong in their upper classmen ranks. And the boys have four opponents coming up that are sub-.500 while the girls will also play four teams with losing records.
The boys are being coached by Allen Ulmer and assistant Will Massey while the girls are again led by Tim Hagedorn, with Katie Huber as the assistant.
Here’s the boys varsity roster.
Seniors: Owen Eitemiller, Alex Fischer, Cody Fischer, Ajay Herrboldt, Hayden McNinch, Cody Munkvold, Blake Rames, Brayden Sattler, Maveric Smith and Kadeyn Ulmer
Juniors: Isaac Fergen, Hunter Masterson
Sophomores: Trent Guthmiller
Freshmen: Izayah Ulmer
Here’s the girls varsity roster.
Seniors: Abby Bender, Julia Buechler and Layne Schmidt
Juniors: Kaelie Derby, Ashton Massey
Sophomores: Addisyn Friesen, Ellyana Ulmer
Freshmen: Ashlyn Burkett, Lexie McNinch, Amanda Rames and Madison Schaeffer
Eighth grader: Kylie Guthmiller