Deep, experienced roster has Freeport boys ready to build on last year’s success

Saturday, November 19, 2022 | 11:01 AM

The Freeport boys basketball team has plenty to build on after getting a playoff win and achieving a winning record for the first time in three years.

And they have an experienced roster to lean on.

The Yellowjackets have 10 seniors and four juniors, making for competitive practices for starting spots in the preseason.

“It’s an open competition,” second-year Freeport coach Sean DeVinney said. “Nothing will be given. Everything will be earned. That’s the way it was last year. These guys know that. I think what got us to where we were last year was that the guys know they had to earn it every day. With the amount of seniors and juniors we have, it’s going to be a competitive season to figure out who really wants the minutes.”

Freeport finished 13-10 and 7-5 in Section 1-4A, earning a first-round playoff win at Uniontown before falling to Belle Vernon in the quarterfinals.

The 10 seniors are Zach Clark, Gavin Croney, Ben Lane, Brady Stivenson, Parker Lucas, Payton Westendorf, Dean Fuhrer, Brock Lucas, Jacksen Reiser and Carson Kosecki, a transfer from Knoch.

Reiser is likely to miss the season because of an injury suffered during football season.

Brady Sullivan, Gavin Glista, Brady Paga and Brian Kijowski are the four juniors in the mix. Glista played junior varsity last year but took a big step forward in development over the offseason.

DeVinney said there is great chemistry among all 14 players. He also said the Yellowjackets will miss the vocal leadership of Vinnie Clark, who graduated, but is confident that cohesion in the locker room will remain strong under the leadership of Zach Clark.

Zach Clark and Vinnie Clark are not related.

Of the 14 players mentioned, 11 play on the Freeport football team, which lost to Belle Vernon in the WPIAL semifinals Friday.

Zach Clark and Sullivan started last year and likely will be key players, but DeVinney said everyone will have to earn his starting spot in camp.

A good way to earn playing time for DeVinney is to be stout defensively. Before coming to Freeport, DeVinney was an assistant at Fox Chapel under Zach Skrinjar, whose teams are known for playing stifling defense.

DeVinney is counting on a similar commitment to defense at Freeport.

“We played a lot of close games, and that’s due to our style of play,” DeVinney said. “We defend first and always will. It’s a prerequisite for our guys to step on the floor. If you’re not going to defend to the level that’s expected, then we’ll have to look somewhere else. The guys are aware of that.

“We grinded out and manufactured a lot of wins last year, and if you look at our losses, many of them were close as well. I think being in so many tight games only bodes well for us this year.”

Freeport will be facing an almost brand-new slate of section opponents in Section 1-4A. Knoch is the lone returner. Highlands, Greensburg Salem, Hampton and Indiana have moved in. Former sectionmate North Catholic moved to Section 2, and Burrell, Deer Lakes, Keystone Oaks, Valley and Derry dropped to Class 3A. Burrell, Deer Lakes, Valley and Derry are on Freeport’s schedule as nonsection opponents.

Freeport will host its annual tip-off tournament Dec. 2-3. The Yellowjackets will play Shady Side Academy in the opener and Valley the second night.

“We’re looking at new competition in section, and it’s going to be tough. There’s no doubt about it,” DeVinney said. “We saw Highlands last year, and they were very tough. They gave it to us last year, and hopefully our guys will be up for the test. Hampton has a rich basketball history, so they’ll be tough. We had a tight game with Knoch last year as well. I’m sure Indiana and Greensburg Salem will be tough as well.”

At a glance

Last year’s record: 13-10 (7-5 Section 1-4A)

Returning starters: Zach Clark (Sr., G), Brady Sullivan (Jr., G)

Top newcomers: Gavin Glista (Jr., G) Carson Kosecki (Sr., G)

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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