Trib HSSN girls basketball player of the week for Jan. 22, 2023

Sunday, January 22, 2023 | 8:09 PM

Freedom junior Shaye Bailey enjoys painting. She painted her bedroom in a Partridge Family bus pattern featuring the colors purple and gray.

She might want to redo her room adding some gold, lots of gold.

Bailey and several of her Bulldogs teammates took home the gold this past fall in winning the WPIAL Class A girls soccer championship. Freedom also reached the PIAA title match, losing to Southern Columbia in the state finals.

Now Freedom is on the hunt for another district crown, this time on the hardwood.

The Bulldogs are the No. 1 team in Class 2A in the latest HSSN rankings. They are in first place in Section 1-2A with a 7-0 section record, 12-2 overall.

“I feel with every practice we are getting better and better,” Bailey said. “We are learning how to play off each other. I feel we could make another WPIAL and states run.”

Freedom reached the championship game in the WPIAL and PIAA tournaments last winter, falling to North Catholic in the district finals and to Neumann-Goretti in the state title game.

The week began for the Bulldogs with a convincing win over visiting New Brighton on Tuesday.

“Prior to the New Brighton game, I informed the team that there’s the possibility that a player can reach 1,000 points in her career,” Freedom coach John Kaercher said. “The first words out of Shaye’s mouth was we feed Julz (Mohrbacher), knowing that may hamper her scoring average because it’s always team first. Midway through the second quarter, Shaye managed the game, as we rotated the remaining 14 players in and out of the game.”

The senior Mohrbacher did eclipse 1,000 points for her career as her and Bailey each scored 21 points.

On Thursday, it was another section home win for Freedom, this time over South Side by 32 points.

Against South Side, she was even paced in scoring until the fourth quarter, when she scored 14 of her game-high 30 points,” Kaercher said. “The thing most impressive in the last two games was that she made 20 2’s and only had two 3-pointers.”

Freedom had its six-game winning streak end Saturday when they lost to the top-ranked team in Class 4A, Blackhawk.

Even though she’s a junior, Bailey feels she has become one of the leaders of this Bulldogs team.

“I definitely feel like I’ve (become) a leader,” she said. “At every practice, I try to help the freshmen out and try to show them this is how you do this, not being bossy, but at the same time trying to help them out.”

Leadership is far from the only aspect of the game Bailey has improved on.

“Shaye has become the complete player,” Kaercher said. “She no longer only relies on the deep ball to score. We have worked on her dribble drive attack to keep teams honest, and she has been excelling in that area. Her strength is her quickness. She covers a lot of ground in a short amount of time, and she can jump out of the gym. She forces a ton of turnovers, which allows us to get the ball out in transition or her speed produces a lot of breakaways for herself.

“She also has great court awareness and is able to find the open player, keeping the defense off guard as to if she’s going to shoot or dump the ball off. Shaye is averaging more points this season than she did last year without relying on the three (pointer) to do so.”

Bailey is averaging 19.7 points per game, and Mohrbacher has an average of 18.4 points per game.

The two have become a dynamic duo for the young Bulldogs.

“We are pleasantly surprised to where we are at this point in the season,” Kaercher said. “We as a staff always think we have the best team, because if we don’t believe that, the team won’t either. Shaye and Julz were our only returning starters, and we knew we had to put the puzzle back together again. We are starting two sophomores, Olivia Henderson and Riley Tokar, and a junior in Cassidy Harris. We go three deep off the bench with seniors Jersee Melvin, Megan Evans, and junior Morgan Keller.”

2023 Trib HSSN Girls Basketball Players of the Week

Week 2: Rylee Kalocay, Upper St. Clair

Week 1: McKenna DeUnger, Charleroi


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