Freedom girls shut down Derry, earn first playoff win since 2015

Wednesday, February 19, 2020 | 9:25 PM

For nearly 13 minutes, Derry struggled to make shots — or even get shots — against a physical, face-guarding Freedom team that prides itself on defense and soccer-like toughness.

During that span, 11th-seeded Freedom scored 24 consecutive points and seized control of its first playoff win in girls basketball since 2015 with a 47-32 victory Wednesday night over the sixth-seeded Trojans in the WPIAL Class 3A first round at Fox Chapel.

“We had too many turnovers and kind of lost our composure and that can be a disaster,” Derry coach Gene Brisbane said. “Freedom moved their bodies really well and played us tough. You can’t go scoreless that long and expect to beat anyone.”

Renae Mohrbacher led the Bulldogs (15-8) with 18 points, Jules Mohrbacher added 15, and Karissa Mercier had 12 in a game where the second half was nothing like the first.

Derry (14-9) did not score in the third quarter. It never led, despite keeping it close for the first 16 minutes.

“We strive off tough, hard-nosed defense,” Freedom coach John Kaercher said. “We try to keep the pressure ramped up. We play in a tough section and that helps to get us ready for (the playoffs).”

Freedom, which is having its first winning season since 2008, advances to play third-seeded Carlynton (14-8) in the quarterfinals Saturday.

Neither team had experienced the WPIAL postseason in three years but Freedom looked more the part against an injury-plagued Derry team.

Senior Hannah Wedow (knee) and sophomore Tiana Moracco (arm) did not start for the Trojans, but they came off the bench to try to lead the team to its first playoff win since 2008.

Both played through pain but could not dig the Trojans out of the scoring drought.

Seniors Kam Kelly and Danielle Mullen fouled out for Derry.

After Moracco made a bank shot with a minute left in the first half to tie it 23-23, Jules Mohrbacher converted a 3-point play to key the decisive run that carried deep into the second half.

Freedom outscored the Trojans in the third, 17-0, to build a 43-23 advantage.

Jules Mohrbacher had a steal and layup to make it 35-23. She had nine points in the quarter.

Two free throws from Mercier made it 47-23 early in the fourth.

“We said it was a race to 40 (points),” Kaercher said. “We needed to ramp up our defense, full-court press, full-bore pressure. We wanted to force them into bad decisions.”

Wedow made a 3-pointer to stop the run with 4:28 left in the fourth, and the Trojans actually scored the final nine points of the game, but the damage had been done.

A team full of soccer players made it a challenge for Derry, especially around the rim and in the paint. The Bulldogs field a perennially strong, high-scoring team in WPIAL soccer.

Now, their goal is to win basketball games.

“I thought we could have gone to the foul line a few more times than we did,” Brisbane said. “It was a physical game.”

Watch an archived broadcast of this game on Trib HSSN.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at or via Twitter .

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