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In the midst of sorrow, a high school basketball team exemplifies the impact of athletics

Gretna, Neb. — Today’s story is not about high school basketball. It’s not about a beloved coach who passed away during the season. It’s not a tale of redemption, grief, or triumph. Instead, it’s a story of unity. It’s about a community and a team that, through their resilience and determination to honor their fallen leader, exemplify the true spirit of sports.

Tonight at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska, Gretna High School will compete in the Class A boys state tournament against Millard North. Their coach, Brad Feeken, coached the Dragons with unmatched passion. His passing at age 48 on December 30, 2023, after a long battle with cancer, marked a new chapter for his players.

The team consists of five seniors starting and two others coming off the bench. Landon Pokorski, Alex Wilcoxson, Alec Wilkins, Kade Cook, Joey Vieth, Chase Doble, and Avery Schendt have already left a mark on their legacy. This week may not define how they are remembered, but it holds significant meaning as they reach the state tournament after enduring months of pain.

On the morning of Feeken’s passing, the players and coaches of Gretna gathered at their high school, choosing to move forward together rather than individually. Despite the emotional weight, they decided to play a game later that day in the quarterfinals of the Metro Conference holiday tournament. In a poignant moment, Pokorski made a game-winning buzzer-beater, dedicating the shot to Feeken.

From that moment on, the team became a source of inspiration for the community. Their unity and support for one another have shown the true essence of sportsmanship. As Feeken’s health declined, the town of Gretna rallied around the coach, his family, and the team, drawing strength from the seniors who led the way.

Despite personal hardships and losses early in the season, the team persevered. Feeken’s widow, Jenny, took up the role of sending motivational messages to the seniors, preparing them for the challenges ahead. Their journey culminated in a district final victory, earning them a spot in the state tournament.

As they head to Lincoln for the tournament, the Dragons carry with them the legacy of their coach and the strength of their community. The story of Gretna High School basketball is not just about wins and losses but about the power of togetherness and the resilience of the human spirit.

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