After three straight losing seasons and not winning a Sectional title in 16 years, the Eagles turned a lot around immediately under new coach Josh Stuckey in 2020-21. Now with a year in his system and an actual summer to get to work together, Fremont could be on the cusp of being a true contender in the always loaded NECC.
“We are excited about the opportunity to build on the success we had to end the season last year,” Stuckey said. “We increased the difficulty of our schedule this year, so we don’t have many (if any) games we can just show up and win. We will need to keep our intensity level high every night if we want to end up where we think we can at the end of the year.”
Fremont started last season 3-2, but fell into a hole by losing seven straight. They eventually clawed out of it and showed great maturity. Despite losing to the likes of Woodlan, Angola and Prairie Heights during that streak, Fremont turned things around dramatically after the NECC Tournament. Their wins over Eastside and Westview altered the conference landscape. Beating the Warriors actually took away Westview’s outright conference title. It demonstrated that Fremont could and will compete with the best of the conference.
Fremont will return four major components from last year’s team and it gives Stuckey a great foundation to work forward with.
Gabel Pentecost returns after leading Fremont with 14 points per game, as well as shooting 43 percent from three point range, a massive strength of the Eagles. Pentecost was instrumental in the late season run for Fremont, as was fellow senior Logan Brace. Brace played big for Fremont positionally and had 8.5 rebounds per game to pair with 62 percent shooting.
A third senior, Ethan Bock, also returns to the lineup after averaging eight points, four rebounds and four assists per contest. The fourth returning starter is junior Ethan Bontrager, who shot 40 percent from three point range last season.
The four of them bring back a combined 47 points per game in scoring.
“We think our depth should be one of our greatest strengths, as well as the three point shooting ability of everyone on our roster,” Stuckey said.
The depth behind the main returners will come mostly in the sophomore class. That said, a second junior, Brogan Blue will see time at the forward position. The sophomores expected to contribute are all guards, though two of them can play big and physical when needed. Brody Foulk is a combo that will see more time as a forward in the lineup than his classmates. Conner Slee is a sharpshooter who plays with physicality and can rebound the ball well. The third sophomore, Corbin Beeman, will likely see time as a point guard.
A title goes a long way. Fremont is a champion and there aren’t many in the NECC that won a title of any kind last season and return as much as the Eagles return. At the top end, they are highly skilled and some of the newer faces have a lot of talent too.
Fremont coming out how they ended last season, winning 5 of their last 6. Upsetting Westview and challenging Kouts in Regionals the way they did make them one of the teams we buzzed the most about this summer.
WHY NOT HIGHER?
The Eagles will need to find a stronger footing in the NECC. The were, and should again, be a force in Class 1A. But their success last season and momentum is there. Can they beat the top teams in the NECC consistently?
Their schedule gives them room to build until tougher matchups at the end of 2021 and into the first few weeks of 2022. Until they get bigger and more front page worthy wins, they hang out around this area.
January 25 at Eastside
When looking at who is the #2 team in the NECC going into the season, it was our thought that either Eastside or Fremont would hold a spot in our preseason top 10. That now Sectional title pedigree has Fremont with the edge.
But, the Blazers are going to be right there in contention to and this is the first of the really big conference tests for the Eagles. Both teams should still be battling for conference title hopes at this point and last season’s one point Fremont upset win is going to still be fresh in everyone’s mind.
Gabel Pentecost, senior
For Fremont to take the next step as a team, look for Pentecost to be a guy who they will look to become an even more major player. He is going to draw the toughest matchups in the conference and also he will be expected to defend some of the best.
Pentecost is a quality scorer and his deep range threat is critical to Fremont’s success. Can he be better? If he is, then Fremont should turn a lot of heads, especially in January.