Freeport girls shut down Knoch

Thursday, January 9, 2020 | 10:09 PM

Using a dominant defensive effort, plus a dose of offensive and defensive rebounding and evenly distributed scoring, the Freeport Yellow Jackets defeated next-door neighbor Knoch for the fifth-consecutive time, winning by a final of 53-39 Thursday night.

Reigning AK Valley athlete of the year Sidney Shemanski poured in a team-high 11 points and was all over the glass in the Section 1-4A win, as she helped the Yellowjackets (7-4, 5-1) to a 17-8 lead after one quarter that they didn’t relinquish.

For fifth-year head coach Fred Soilis, the defensive effort was the most crucial.

“I think we played some great defense,” said Soilis. “(Nevaeh) Ewing got hers, but nobody else truly hurt us. I think Sidney was in double figures, but we had contributions from a lot of players. That’s a great team win.”

Ewing scored 15 points, a game high, for Knoch (8-4, 5-1), while Lauren Cihonski scored 12, including four in the fourth quarter for the Knights. Only three others scored for Knoch on the road, including freshman guard Nina Shaw, who returned from a concussion suffered before the holiday.

It was the opposite for the Yellowjackets, who only saw Shemanski finish in double digits, but got contributions of at least three points from six others, five of whom had seven points or more.

Samantha Clark was the closest to Shemanski’s 11 with nine, while her twin sister Madeline, as well as Melaina Dezort, both had eight points. Grace Soilis and Harley Holloway both chipped in seven for Freeport.

“We have shooters and Melaina had an off night, but she can really shoot it,” said Soilis. “She’s a competitor and she battles hard. It’s OK if we have a girl that has an off night because we have other girls that can pick up the load.”

The rebounding effort was also something Soilis was happy with.

The Yellowjackets had multiple possessions of three or four opportunities throughout the game, as they led almost the entire way.

Freeport took a 4-2 lead early and never had it tied back up.

“If Sid didn’t have a double-double, I’d be shocked,” said Soilis. “Knoch is a good team, though, and we can’t overlook them. Our girls were great on the glass.”

Chris Andreassi, who’s in his fourth season as coach at Knoch, thought his team played well defensively for the most part, but was lacking on the other end.

“We didn’t, offensively, play our best game. That’s for sure,” said Andreassi. “In the second half, we came out and cut it to four. We were right there, but we weren’t playing well offensively. Defensively, we were playing hard, but (Shemanski) killed us on the boards.”

Knoch’s next game is Monday against first-place North Catholic, while Freeport will travel to Indiana the same night.

Soilis said his team is going to keep trying to get better and healthier to have more success. Shemanski and Madeline Clark have missed significant time with illness and injury, and they’re not the only two who have.

“I told my team that if we play with the intensity we did in the North Catholic game the rest of the year, we’re going to be in good shape,” said Soilis. “We’re starting to peak a little bit after the injuries and illness and we’ll keep trying to take care of business.”

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