Freeport girls navigating rocky road during season’s opening weeks

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Wednesday, December 18, 2019 | 8:02 PM


The Freeport girls basketball team is 2-0 in Section 1-4A and the Yellowjackets hope to remain unblemished Thursday when they face rival Burrell.

The opening month of the season has been one of progress for a Freeport team mixing in veteran talent with new varsity blood all the while working through the absence of a pair of regular starters because of injury and illness.

“I’d like to see a little more consistency with the system we are running, but I think the team is progressing,” said Freeport coach Fred Soilis, who has his team at 3-2 overall after a tough 69-59 nonsection loss Tuesday at Class 5A Hampton. “We’re trying to get them to play more as a unit, no matter who is on the court at any given time.”

The Yellowjackets, runners-up to North Catholic in Section 1 last year, faced the Talbots without the services of seniors Maddie Clark (knee) and Sidney Shemanski (illness), but Soilis said the players in the lineup took advantage of the work against the larger-classification opponent.

“Hampton has some good shooters,” Soilis said. “They shot better from the outside than I anticipated. It was a good, quality opponent. If we have Sidney and Maddie, I think the result could’ve and would’ve been different. For the six players that played, it was good competition, and the effort was there.”

Clark, whose only action so far this season is about four minutes in Monday’s 62-34 win at Highlands, said it’s frustrating not being able to be on the court with her teammates.

“I tried to go Monday, but I just wasn’t effective,” she said. “This is definitely not how I wanted to start my senior year. But I am trying my best to get back as soon as I can.”

Shemanski tallied 12 points in a season-opening win against Albert Gallatin on Dec. 6 at the Southmoreland tournament, but back issues forced her out of action the next night in a 63-23 loss to the host Scotties, who are undefeated and ranked No. 4 this week in Class 4A.

Shemanski was under the weather Monday against Highlands, but she came off the bench to notch 10 points as four players scored in double figures against the Golden Rams.

“Sidney and I have been out, but a lot of the other girls have been stepping up,” Maddie Clark said. “(Freshmen) Ava (Soilis) and Melaina (Dezort) have not been nervous in their first chances to play varsity basketball.”

Soilis was one of three players to reach double figures in points against Hampton, as she scored 11.

Senior Samantha Clark connected on five 3-pointers against the Talbots, and she finished with a game-best 22 points.

She also led the team with 18 points in last week’s section-opening victory over Greensburg Salem, and she contributed 10 points Monday against Highlands.

“She shot lights out against both Hampton and Greensburg Salem,” Soilis said. “She was on fire.”

Senior Harley Holloway paced the balanced attack against Highlands with 15 points. Junior Grace Soilis added 13 for a Yellowjackets team that also turned it on defensively and forced 26 Golden Rams turnovers.

“We just want to keep focusing on getting better as a team every day,” said Holloway, who also scored a team-best 19 in the opener against Albert Gallatin.

Soilis said senior Louisa Fennell, who scored 12 points against both Hampton and Greensburg Salem, hopes to benefit more from her increased varsity role as does sophomore forward Leah Hartman, who is battling through a sprained ankle.

Freeport hopes to keep pace in Section 1. North Catholic, the top-ranked team in 4A, already is showing its dominance, and Knoch and Apollo-Ridge are among those hoping to rise up in the playoff chase.

A stretch against those three teams begins with a game against the Trojanettes on Jan. 2, but Soilis said the focus is squarely on Thursday’s game with Burrell and then a pair of holiday tournament games next week.

“It’s said a lot, but the girls must understand it’s one game at a time, and they can’t get anxious and look too far ahead,” he said. “We have a lot to worry about right now.”

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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