Freeport boys determined to snap WPIAL playoff victory drought

Saturday, November 23, 2019 | 10:56 PM

The Freeport boys basketball team is aware of the hump they have not recently managed to get over.

The group that will take the floor this season, especially the seniors, are determined to end a drought that dates to the 2009-10 season. The Yellowjackets haven’t won a playoff since February 20, 2010, when they defeated Summit Academy, 65-48.

The Yellowjackets have made the playoffs a handful of times since then, but the win has eluded them.

Coming off an 11-10 season and a first-round playoff loss to Ringgold, the Yellowjackets thinks they can get the job done, despite losing one significant piece and another player to injury late in the year.

Gone are near 17 point-per-game scorer Jalen Brown. who is playing at La Roche, and Patrick Keeley, who was in his first year with the team as a senior last season.

But Wayne Greiser said his team is used to having to replace playmakers. Prior to last season, the Yellowjackets had to replace the A-K Valley Player of the Year Ben Beale.

Fast forward to this season, and the team is confident it can compete, and wants to, according to Greiser, “play an entertaining brand of basketball.”

“(Keeley) gave us a hard-nose type guy, and Jalen has been a basketball guy forever; he made things happen. This year we’ve got to change our philosophy a bit,” said Greiser. “We felt being a dribble-drive team was our strength last year, but now we feel we’re a little bigger and we might be able to use some of that size to give us a little more rhythm to things instead of freelancing.”

What will help is the return of four starters, and even a few more who saw significant time last season in the 11-win campaign.

Seniors Garret Schaffhauser and Aiden Skradski return to the starting lineup. Sophomores 5-foot-9 guard Vinnie Clark and 6-6 forward Matt Aulicino, who started games last season, will be back as well.

Schaffhauser, a 6-0 guard, has experience playing hoops and also plays lacrosse, and Skradski is a 6-1 guard who will serve as one of the captains this season.

“Aiden and Garret should be leaders as seniors that have been around awhile,” Greiser said. “We want them to simplify things. Even Matt and Vinnie aren’t your typical sophomores. They have the experience now. Also, our eight seniors are important. We need everyone to lead in that class.”

The Yellowjackets also await the return of senior forward Nolan Plocki, who has missed time with two ACL injuries and a shoulder injury over his three years. He is dealing with a back ailment now. Greiser expects Plocki to make an impact when he does get on the court.

Greiser said he thinks the team ultimately could go 10 or 11 players deep into the rotation.

“We’ll make things happen to take advantages of the weaknesses we can find,” Greiser said. “We’ve got a pressing lineup and a man lineup. We want to tailor things to the strength of the guys that are on the floor.”

The expectation is for the Yellowjackets to make the playoffs and make a run. The Yellowjackets will begin their season Dec. 6 when it begins its own tip-off tournament against Mars.

“We’ve beefed up the schedule with two good 5A teams coming to our tip-off tournament. We’ll go on the road to play New Castle, and we play in a competitive section,” Greiser said. “Knoch and Highlands are probably the favorites in 4A, and they’re both in our section so we’ll see them twice. We’ve talked about taking the next step as a program and stringing some wins together. We want to become a program that is expected to make runs.”

The two returning senior starters agree with their coach.

“Obviously coming into a new season you want to win,” Schaffhauser said. “The biggest goal for us would be a section title.”

“We want to win that first game to win a playoff game,” Skradski said. “We grew up watching those kids, and it’s finally our time.”


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