With senior Soilis leading the way, ‘things are starting to click’ for Freeport girls

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Wednesday, February 3, 2021 | 7:38 PM


As the lone senior on the Freeport girls basketball team, Grace Soilis had concerns about the status of her final high school season and what might happen in the face of covid postponements and cancellations.

“I had so many conversations with my parents and was all worked up about it,” said Soilis, a captain of a youthful team that continues to make its way through a most unusual season after losing five seniors, including four with four years of starting experience.

“They told me I needed to take it one day at a time, prepare for anything and just hope for the best. That really helped me keep my hopes up for the season.”

The Yellowjackets have had their fair share of stops and starts in the new year, but at 3-1, both overall and in Section 1-4A, they hope to make a run in February and prepare for an opportunity in an open WPIAL tournament.

“We’ve only been practicing for about a month and we have just four games in, but it’s gone by so fast,” Soilis said. “Playoffs are starting in a couple of weeks. It’s so crazy how quickly everything is going.”

Freeport returned to action Wednesday evening at home against section rival Burrell (2-6, 1-4), and Soilis was honored in a ceremony before the varsity matchup.

“We have such a young team, but we are getting better and better each day. It’s been a lot of fun to be a leader of this group,” said Soilis, who scored 12 points in the Yellowjackets’ 40-33 win over Burrell last week. Sophomore Melaina DeZort, the team’s leading scorer through four games, poured in a game-best 23.

“I think we are making improvements each game, and things are starting to click,” Freeport coach Fred Soilis said. “It’s been tough to establish continuity the way the practice schedule’s been fractured, practicing in pods, and the way the season’s been fractured because of the pandemic. Hopefully, with more practice time as a group and more playing time, we’ll be able to establish that greater continuity.”

After several delays to the start of the season, Freeport kicked off game action Jan. 14 against Highlands and scored a 43-28 victory. Fred Soilis said he saw some good things to build on in the initial outing that saw sophomore Ava Soilis score a team-best 20 points.

“Ava has a ton of energy, and she’s a competitor,” Fred Soilis said. “What I need to see from her more is that if she makes a mistake, she has to let it go. She has to have a short-term memory with those kind of things.”

Freshman Morgan Croney sank a 3-pointer against Highlands on her first varsity shot, and she finished the game with six points and eight rebounds.

“Morgan has nice size, she can handle the ball, and she can shoot. It’s just a matter of her getting more comfortable at this level,” Fred Soilis said.

DeZort, who led the returning players in scoring average last year at 8.5 points per game, has put up a 14.8 average through the first four games.

“Last year, I was a little timid because there were so many upperclassmen,” she said. “I kind of knew my role as just a shooter, making open threes and doing the best I could. This year, I’ve worked on expanding my game to where I’m not just a shooter anymore. It’s about working on all aspects of my game, from creating different shots, to rebounding to my defense.”

DeZort had a team-best 14 points in a 54-27 setback to undefeated Knoch on Jan. 18.

“That game was an eye-opener for the girls,” Fred Soilis said. “It’s just a matter of putting the time in and learning from it for the next time we play them.”

Wednesday’s game with Burrell was the start of three section games in as many days. Freeport is slated to visit Valley at 6 p.m. Thursday and host Derry at 5 p.m. Friday.

“With the games we’ve played, we’ve definitely improved our chemistry each time,” DeZort said. “Since we lost so many seniors from last year, we’re kind of building a new team. Having more practice time than what we’ve had would’ve helped a lot. But as we play, we’re starting to know each other better as players. The future definitely is bright for this team.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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