Girls basketball preview: Freeport looks to replace a talented senior class with ‘young’ and ‘athletic’ roster

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Saturday, November 28, 2020 | 5:55 PM


The Freeport girls basketball team is set to face a tough challenge.

After posting an overall record of 17-8 and making a run to the WPIAL Class 4A quarterfinals and PIAA first round last season, the Yellowjackets will have to replace five seniors, including leading scorer Sidney Shemanksi (12.5 ppg.) and three others who averaged eight points or more.

Despite losing a talented senior class, coach Fred Soilis has plenty of new players he believes will allow the Yellowjackets to thrive.

“We’ve got a nice group coming back, and we lost some starters but I think overall our athleticism is going to make us competitive,” Soilis said. “It’s just going to come down to how we play together as a group, how we execute, and the amount of energy that we give.”

Soilis said with the eight returning players and 10 incoming freshmen, he will have the largest roster he has had since he started coaching at Freeport. Among the top returners will be Soilis’ daughter, Grace.

Grace started for the Yellowjackets and averaged 4.9 points per game as a junior. Coach Soilis will look for his older daughter to take on a bigger role.

“It’s going to be tough to replace girls that had started for four years for us,” Soilis said. “But at the same time, we have some returners that had been playing. Grace is our only senior, and she’s been playing for years. So she has some experience, and we’re going to rely on her to pick up her game more and do more things that she may have deferred to the girls that were on the team last year.”

Melaina Dezort, another returning starter, averaged 8.5 points and 4.5 rebounds last season. Soilis’ younger daughter, Ava, a sophomore, also is set to start, and junior Leah Hartman could see significant playing time.

Soilis said he believes a key factor to overcoming the graduation losses is the girls’ ability to play as a team. Once the Yellowjackets are able to get back in the gym — Freeport suspended winter sports until Dec. 8 — and practice together, he believes that will happen.

“It’s just about getting them to jell together and not just offensively. They have to be able to play defense, too,” Soilis said. “I’m a big proponent of defense. You have to be able to play good team defense to be in the ball game, and that’s something we emphasize all the time.”

Soilis said he is confident in his players’ athletic abilities. As the regular season approaches, he said he just needs to get them to assimilate into the style of basketball that he likes to play.

“I look at my players as athletes. I don’t look at them as basketball players per se,” Soilis said. “We’ve got athletes. It’s just going to be a matter of forming them to our style of play, and I think that will happen.”

The Yellowjackets remain in Class 4A, but they will get a few new opponents. North Catholic, Apollo-Ridge, Indiana, and Greensburg Salem have changed sections, and they will be replaced by Deer Lakes, Derry and Valley.

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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