Trib HSSN Girls Basketball Team of the Week: March 13, 2022

Sunday, March 13, 2022 | 9:05 PM

A nice run in the district playoffs landed the Freedom girls basketball team in the Class 3A title game against Section 1 foe North Catholic. The Trojans captured their 21st WPIAL crown with a 48-43 victory.

Undaunted, the Bulldogs are off and running on another impressive postseason journey, this time on the Road to Hershey in the PIAA playoffs.

“We have a short memory, whether we win or lose,” Freedom coach John Kaercher said. “The approach we take is one game at a time, and we play for the moment. As I stated after the WPIAL championship loss, that the team would enjoy the moment on the bus ride home, and then it was time to focus on the PIAA season. Coming down the home stretch of the WPIAL regular season, we played five games in seven days, so we were conditioned for short turnarounds.”

While many teams that lose in the WPIAL finals see their confidence take a little bit of a hit, Kaercher said that was not the case with his Freedom team.

“Our confidence level and mindset after that loss was as high as it has been all season,” he said. :We were down 12 at one point and battled back and went toe to toe with North Catholic. We know that we can play with the best teams and our goal heading into the PIAA playoffs was to turn up our defensive intensity to help promote more scoring opportunities.”

Mission accomplished through two rounds.

In the first round, Freedom had a five-point lead at home against Westmont-Hilltop when the Bulldogs dominated the third quarter, outscoring the Hilltoppers, 11-1, to take control of the game.

“The key in that run against the Hilltoppers was our defense turning it up a notch and was imposing our will on them,” Kaercher said. “We always stress that our defense creates our offense, and once we get zoned in defensively, we feed off of every forced turnover.”

Senior Renae Mohrbacher once again led the way with 19 points as the Bulldogs won 44-31.

“Renae Mohrbacher has been a four-year starter for us and has grown into that player who’s able to control our offense, getting us into our half-court sets when need be,” Kaercher said. “Renae has the ability to drive and finish or kick the ball outside when the defense collapses on her. Renae plays taller than her frame as she gets her hands on a lot of balls and deflects a ton of passes. In doing so she creates a lot of turnovers, enabling us to get breakouts and move the ball quickly up the floor in transition.”

Defense and a big game from sophomore Shaye Bailey helped as Freedom rolled past District 10 champion Greenville, 56-28.

“Shaye Bailey’s speed is insane, and she uses it to her advantage,” Kaercher said. “She is everywhere defensively, creating turnovers or chasing down opponent on breakaways, taking away the chance of easy baskets. When the rest of the defense is forcing turnovers, she is out in front getting the outlet passes. Once that happens, no one is catching her in the open court.

“This proved true in her 27-point performance against Greenville as she converted 12 field goals in transition, including one 3-pointer. She has evolved since her freshmen year and no longer just relies on the 3-ball for scoring.”

Besides Renae Mohrbacher and Bailey, Kaercher heaped some praise on several other contributors to the Bulldogs continuing 20-5 season.

“Julz Mohrbacher does the ‘dirt’ work, as she is able to control the boards on both ends of the court, and plays shutdown defense in the paint. At 5-10, she is very versatile as she can switch from forward to guard able to score from inside the paint or on the perimeter.

“Olivia Evans and Cadence Gorajewski are great role players as they play tough, solid defense and make minimal mistakes on both ends of the court. Oliva gives us another rebounding presence on both boards, and Cadence does a great job forcing players out of the paint. They both have the mindset to find the open player but take enough shots and score to keep teams honest. Teams can’t afford to let them go unguarded.

“We usually bring three players off the bench in Grace White, Isabella Klenk and Riley Tokar. All three are able to provide quality minutes and play at a consistent level, enabling us not to miss a beat when called upon.”

On Tuesday, Freedom will face another district winner when it battles District 6 champion River Valley. The Panthers have found success in their first year after the merger of Saltsburg and Blairsville.

“River Valley is a well-rounded team that plays good solid defense and have seven players that are able to score from all locations,” Kaercher said. “At this point in the PIAA playoffs, you play the best of the best every two days. We know we can play with the best, and hopefully we will be competitive once again against a well-rounded opponent. “

2022 Trib HSSN Girls Basketball Teams of the Week

Week 10 – Bishop Canevin Crusaders

Week 9 – Mohawk Warriors

Week 8 – Mars Fightin’ Planets

Week 7 – Albert Gallatin Colonials

Week 6 – Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Chargers

Week 5 – Waynesburg Central Raiders

Week 4 – Montour Spartans

Week 3 – Trinity Hillers

Week 2 – Union Scotties

Week 1 – Blackhawk Cougars


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