A-K Valley athletes of the week: Highlands’ Shelby Wojcik, Kiski Area’s Isaiah Gonzalez

Saturday, January 7, 2023 | 3:27 PM

Shelby Wojcik

Class: Junior

School: Highlands

Sport: Basketball

Report card: Highlands junior forward Shelby Wojcik had a team-high 20 points in helping the Golden Rams defeat rival Freeport, 55-44, in a Section 1-4A contest Thursday night. It was the third win in a row for Highlands (6-4, 2-1). Wojcik, who transferred from Burrell after her freshman year, also had 12 points a 54-46 win over Mars on Dec. 28 and in a 60-42 loss to Armstrong last month.

How did the team play Thursday against Freeport?

I think we did really good. It was a big game. We were getting hyped up before because it’s a big rivalry game with Freeport. We executed good, did the plays we had to do, played good defense. I think we did good.

What are some things that the team is doing well right now?

We’re playing really good as a team. The first game we weren’t doing very good with that but now that we’ve been playing together, I think we’re playing good as a team.

What are the goals for the rest of the season?

Probably playing as a team, keep building on that, sharing the ball. We need to start doing that more. Running our plays all the way through. Executing on offense and defense. We want to win the section. That’s our big goal this year.

What will it take to reach and advance in the playoffs?

Just scout our teams out, know who the best players are and what are advantages and disadvantages are, know who their players are and who we are going to guard.

What is your role on this team?

I’m the forward so probably getting rebounds, executing on offense, knowing who is open, passing the ball.

What are some of your strengths on the court?

I like getting back on defense, getting rebounds, pushing the ball up. I’ve been really good with shooting this year. I’ve really advanced on that.

How did you get started in basketball?

I think I started in about fifth grade, started with Bitty Ball (at Burrell) and kept going up. I started playing AAU in sixth grade.

What is something people might not know about you?

My favorite color is orange.

Did you make any New Year’s resolutions?

Exercising more, working out more in general.

Isaiah Gonzalez

Class: Junior

School: Kiski Area

Sport: Basketball

Report card: The 6-foot-2 Cavaliers guard, the team’s leading scorer last year and again this year, was an offensive force in a pair of games this week. In a 72-57 Section 3-5A victory over Latrobe on Tuesday, he recorded 28 points, four shy of his career high tallied last year at McKeesport and matched earlier this year against Highlands. He hit seven field goals, including one from 3-point range, and added a 13-for-15 effort from the free throw line. The performance against the Wildcats followed a 22-point output in a 67-64 victory over Fox Chapel at the Peter Sauer Memorial Tournament on Dec. 30. On Friday in a loss at section foe Franklin Regional, Gonzalez scored 19 points, 14 of which came in the second half to help Kiski Area keep the game close with the Panthers until the final minute.

What were the key factors in the loss to Franklin Regional?

We played good in the first half, holding them to just 11 points. In the second half, we came out a little slow, and some turnovers led to some fast-break layups. We battled the whole game, but we just couldn’t get the win in the end. It was a tough game.

How tough is it in this section night in and night out?

The section is a challenge night in and night out, and we have to bring our best each time. I think we have the ability to win the section. We have to learn from this loss (to Franklin Regional) and keep working hard, and I think we can come out on top.

What has been the key to your strong play right now?

My mindset coming into each game is that I don’t think anyone can guard me. I prepare in practice and have built my confidence, whether its rebounding, shooting or playing defense. I am a scorer on the team, so that’s what I look to do to help my team be successful

Part of your big game against Latrobe was your consistency from the free throw line. How big of an emphasis is that for you and the team overall?

After certain drills, coach tells us to go to the line, and I take that personal and always try and lock it. Also, after practice, my brother (Amaree) and I always stay to get up an extra 50 free throws with our dad (Isaiah Sr.) and then always leave after making 8-10 in a row after shooting the 50. I believe the extra free throws after practice definitely helps build up to when I have to shoot them in games.

Are you more of a fan of college basketball or the NBA?

I watch more NBA. I am not really into the college stuff. I am trying to stay loyal to the Rockets. I like (point guard) Kevin Porter Jr. I try to model my game after him, a left-handed, step-back shooter who uses a lot of (isolations).

Is there a team that has surprised you so far in this NBA season?

The Cavaliers, for sure. They had a rough season two years ago, but they put that behind them. They got better last year, and they are doing really well this year with (point guard) Darius Garland. The rest of the team has been putting up numbers, too, and getting dubs.

What is your favorite school subject?

I am a math guy. I love numbers and solving problems. I am hoping to do something in college involving math or numbers.

What is your favorite hobby or activity away from basketball and sports?

I am a big video gamer. Call of Duty, I play that with my friends a lot. I also play a UFC fighting game. It’s all a lot of fun.

What is something people might not know about you?

I can dance a little bit, but I don’t really dance a lot around other people, feeling like they might make fun of me. Since I was little, I would listen to Neo, Chris Brown and a few others. My dad would play them on TV, and I would dance to it. It’s always been a fun thing to do.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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