Knoch girls basketball hopes ‘the process’ includes a WPIAL playoff trip
By: Michael Love
Wednesday, January 9, 2019 | 8:33 PM
At the start of every season, the Knoch girls basketball players eye up their schedule and find when they play Freeport.
The Yellowjackets do the same, as the rivalry games are highly anticipated regardless of records or section standings.
The Knights, who began the season with an five new starters and a rotation that included a number of younger players hoping to make an impact, have fashioned a winning record and a place near the top of Section 1-4A as they hope to again qualify for the WPIAL playoffs.
“We had to write our own story and prove ourselves, and I feel we are doing a really good job so far,” junior guard Abbey Shearer said.
Knoch (6-5, 4-1) will test its mettle Thursday at home against Freeport (8-2, 4-1). Second place in the section is on the line.
“We are so excited,” Shearer said. “The rivalry has always been there. We just can’t wait to play. I’m sure (Freeport players) feel the same way. It should be a great atmosphere.”
It’s been an up and down ride so far for the Knights.
Knoch won four in a row after a season-opening loss to Armstrong at the Armstrong tournament. The run was punctuated with season-high 51 points in a 10-point triumph over Class 5A Kiski Area.
Three straight setbacks followed the winning streak, including a section loss at Greensburg Salem on Dec. 20, but the Knights got back on track with victories over Apollo-Ridge and Burrell.
“I knew coming into the season our team chemistry would be strong and help us win games right away,” said junior guard Skye Burkett, who made a quick transition to the basketball court after Knoch volleyball’s postseason run.
“I like our hustle and determination at both ends of the court.”
Knoch has been fueled, in part, by a defense that is surrendering 38.3 points per game. That is third in Class 4A by the slimmest of margins to section foe Apollo-Ridge (38.2).
The only team better than the Knights and Vikings is Southmoreland at 34.8.
Knoch put the clamps down on Burrell for a 40-22 victory Monday.
After scoring 11 in the first quarter, the Bucs were limited to a single point in the second quarter and two points in the fourth. Kaylen Sharrow had 16 of her team’s 22 points.
Burkett led the Knights against Burrell with 15 points.
Last week, Apollo-Ridge felt the Knights’ defensive sting in a 45-29 section loss. Junior forward Lauren Cihonski led Knoch with 15 points, and freshman Madeline Boyer added 12.
“We’ve done a better job of being mentally strong since the start of the season,” Cihonski said. “Against Armstrong, they got in our heads, and we just weren’t able to keep it together. If we can be mentally strong (Thursday) and play the way we are capable, we have a good shot at beating Freeport and having one of our best games this season.”
Knoch also visits WPIAL 4A No. 1 North Catholic (9-1, 5-0) on Monday.
“Every game is a challenge, but I think we came out and surprised some teams,” Shearer said. “We wanted to show that we were not a broken team without leaders.”
Nevaeh Ewing, who suffered a right wrist injury at Kiski Area on Dec. 10, has been cleared to return. She played a couple of minutes Tuesday against Butler, but Knoch coach Chris Andreassi said he hopes she can be back at 100 percent in a week or two.
Andreassi said he is looking forward to seeing how his team progresses over the final four weeks of the regular season in the race for the playoffs.
“It’s been a process with this team,” Andreassi said. “I just heard the quote again the other day, ‘The journey is the process.’ We’re enjoying the process, and the girls are working hard. We’ve had our ups and downs but have been able to come away with some nice wins. We’re still learning and getting better.”
Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at email@example.com or via Twitter @MLove_Trib.