Key stretch looms for Freeport girls basketball team

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Saturday, January 13, 2018 | 11:30 PM


When asked to break down the mission for his girls basketball team in the stretch run of the regular season, Freeport coach Fred Soilis kept coming back to a point that many coaches hammer home to their teams.

“We're always trying to establish consistency in our games,” Soilis said.

The Yellowjackets improved to 4-1 in Section 1-4A and 6-5 overall with Thursday's 48-37 victory over Burrell, but Soilis said there was frustration with the way his team regressed in the second half.

Freeport led 28-14 at halftime on the strength of its outside shooting and its defense that forced 20 turnovers.

The lead grew to as much as 17 in the third quarter before Burrell started to chip away and reduce the advantage to eight in the fourth quarter.

“We played a great first half,” Soilis said. “Our press was very effective, and we moved the ball. We just didn't bring the necessary energy and attention to detail we needed in the second half.”

Freeport is gearing up for a key stretch of three games in four days, starting with a nonsection contest against 5A Kiski Area on Monday. A home section game with Deer Lakes, postponed because of the cold weather earlier this week, was rescheduled for Tuesday.

With a section game at Valley on Thursday, a nonsection contest with Armstrong originally set for Wednesday was postponed to avoid games four days in a row.

“I give them a list of goals every game, and they pretty much don't change no matter who we are playing,” Soilis said. “We want to shoot at least 75 percent from the line, have our turnovers be under 10 and cause as many turnovers as possible, make at least six 3s, get at least 20 defensive rebounds and 15 on offense. If we can reach these goals, we are going to be in a position to win every game or be very competitive.”

Freeport canned six 3-pointers in the first half Thursday as sophomore Samantha Clark hit three on the way to a 13-point effort. Twin sister Madeline added a pair 3-pointers and finished with eight points, and sophomore Sidney Shemanski drained a 3 and finished with a game-high 18.

“We come out in games with a lot of intensity, but we have to keep that intensity up the whole game,” Shemanski said. “We can't afford sloppy moments.”

Freeport has won three in a row in section since a pair of tough losses at the Riverside tournament over the holiday break. The Yellowjackets allowed an average of 27.6 points in those three victories, including just 34 to a Knoch team tied with them in the section standings.

The defense forced Burrell into 34 turnovers Thursday.

“The defensive pressure and forcing turnovers creates a lot for the offense,” Shemanski said.

Freeport's game with Deer Lakes — the opener of a girl-boy doubleheader between the schools — completes the first cycle of section play.

“We like where we are right now in the section. We have some tough games ahead,” Soilis said. “If we play to our capabilities in all phases of the game, we should be fine.”

The Lancers, 2-2 in section, visit section foe Highlands on Monday before Tuesday's clash with the Yellowjackets.

Freeport swept Deer Lakes last season en route to an 8-4 section record and a trip to the WPIAL playoffs.

“(Deer Lakes coach) David (Petruska) does a nice job preparing his team,” Soilis said “They are right there battling for a playoff spot. It should be a fun atmosphere with the doubleheader with the boys. Hopefully, there is extra energy and drive to take care of business.”

While the Deer Lakes game looms, Freeport is not looking past Monday's annual matchup with the Cavaliers. Kiski Area is on the upswing this year and heads into the game at 5-8 overall.

“We take it as a challenge,” Soilis said. “We did well against Indiana, which is in their section. It's another opportunity to meet those goals and play to our capabilities the entire game.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at mlove@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Mlove_Trib.

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