by: CORY MIMMS - Ben Grandle taking the ball to the hoop.Country Christian’s boys basketball team has the potential to take first in the Casco League for the tenth time in a row. The Cougars lost two key players in Levi Lewandowski and Mitchel Cunningham, but they still return plenty of talent.

“[Cunningham and Lewandowski] got a lot of play time in last year,” Coach Doug Nofziger said. “They’re two key pieces that we’ll be missing.”

Nofziger said he’ll also miss Zachary Farner’s strength and height. “He could rebound really well,” Nofziger said.

As for the team composition overall, “it’s kind of a weird year,” Nofziger said. The Cougars have a few seniors who haven’t played in a couple years joining the team. They have only one returning senior, Cooper Nofziger, who started last year.

“He’s just one of those guys that did a lot of the dirty work,” Coach Nofziger said.

Last year, the team struggled to find a clear, vocal leader, Coach Nofziger said. This year, he expects Cooper to step into a much-needed leadership role.

In addition to Cooper, the Cougars have lots of juniors with plenty of court time under their belts to help keep the team at the top of the league.

Luke Carter is now 6-foot five-inches tall, Nofziger said. “He’s gotten better every year.”

Then there’s Ben Grandle, who will mostly play wing. “He’s kind of my shooter, Nofziger said. “He’s grown over the years.”

Grandle does tower over a few of the other Cougars. Outside of his height, he’s also got a couple years of play behind him. “The last couple years have been beneficial,” Grandle said. “I learned a lot of from the juniors and seniors ahead of me.”

Also playing wing, Jordan Syphard will most likely “step up this year and be a big part of the picture,” Nofziger said. “He has all kinds of athletic ability.”

Then there’s Avery Nofziger as well. He missed half of last season due to a knee injury, but Coach Nofziger said he made a full comeback and may be starting as point guard.

Mitchel Sandberg is also returning. “He’s on of the grittiest players on the team,” Coach Nofziger said. “He’s got a motor that won’t quit. He’s made huge strides.”

With Cooper Nofziger stepping in as a leader on the court, and the talent of the junior class, the Cougars are looking at another good season, one that will probably press into state playoffs.

The main focus for Coach Nofziger right now, is to get in as many practices before they begin playing tough preseason games that will help sharpen them up for league play.

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