Freeport girls basketball making postseason push with healthy Shemanski

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Wednesday, January 29, 2020 | 5:53 PM


Sidney Shemanski appreciates the ability to be on the court with her Freeport teammates.

She doesn’t take that for granted. Not after injury and illness earlier this season took her away from game action.

“You never know when something is going to happen to keep you from playing a game you love,” Shemanski said. “It helps you value the chances to play even more.”

Freeport’s leader in scoring (11.6 points per game), rebounds (7.5) and steals (3.8) understands her role in moving forward for a team that has its sights set on a deep run in the WPIAL playoffs.

Freeport is 12-5 overall and tied with Knoch for second in Section 1-4A at 9-2.

“Sidney is a difference-maker, and we missed her in some of those early games,” Freeport coach Fred Soilis said. “We’re always looking for that consistency from her in all the things she does well, whether that’s scoring, rebounding or defending.”

Shemanski had been battling back issues for several seasons, and it flared up during the season opener, a 58-40 victory over Albert Gallatin, when she landed hard after making contact with an opposing player while grabbing a rebound.

“The next morning, my back was sore, and I couldn’t move well,” she said.

Shemanski missed a couple of practices and games. She then battled through an upper respiratory infection, strep throat and the stomach flu.

“That was a pretty big obstacle, too,” she said. “I was thinking this was the unluckiest time. But I knew it was early in the season, and I had to push through all of that. I knew I would have many more games to play.”

Senior teammate Madeline Clark (knee) joined Shemanski on the sidelines.

Clark returned right after Christmas, and she continues to monitor the injury.

“With Madeline’s knee and my back, we’re still sore from it, but we just have to keep dealing with it in the safest way possible and keep playing each game as hard as we can,” Shemanski said.

A mix of veteran talent and newcomers stuck together and helped Freeport go 5-3 with a 3-0 section record in December.

The New Year started with a tough loss at Class 4A No. 1 North Catholic, but the Yellowjackets bounced back to win seven in a row. That stretch included a 53-39 victory over Knoch.

Shemanski averaged 14.9 points during the win streak.

“My mindset is on the offensive end and scoring for my team, but I think a lot of my concentration is also on the defensive side,” she said. “I know I have to be quick and ready to make a play if I am guarding the opponent’s best player. We know that good defense like making stops or forcing turnovers leads to more offensive opportunities.”

Freeport saw its streak snapped Monday with a 52-41 loss in the rematch against North Catholic. The score was tied at halftime, and the Yellowjackets, after falling behind in the third quarter, tied it again in the fourth before the Trojanettes pulled away.

“Our intensity and the way we play together as a team is strong right now. We showed that (Monday) on offense and defense even though we lost that game,” said Shemanski, who was limited to five points against North Catholic but added seven rebounds and five steals.

“We know we have to give 110% each game.”

Clark led the way with 11 points, and freshman Melaina DeZort added 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Shemanski said she and her teammates hope to see North Catholic again in the WPIAL playoffs.

But there still is work to be done for Freeport, and Shemanski said she is excited for Thursday’s home game against playoff-contending Apollo-Ridge (9-9, 4-7).

The Yellowjackets visit Knoch (14-5, 9-2) on Monday for a game that could decide second place in the section and could be key in terms of playoff positioning.

“We have some big games coming up, and we have to be ready to play hard each time,” Shemanski said.

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

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