Freeport's Ava Soilis knocks down a three pointer during the first quarter of the Yellowjackets victory over the Valley Vikings on Friday, January 29 at Freeport Senior High School.
By Joe Rhoades
Pod workouts is a term that has most certainly been coined over the last several months, and that style of practice has the Freeport girls varsity basketball team still finding the kind of continuity that they might have found on Friday.
The Yellowjackets built an early lead that swelled in the second half to down the visiting Valley Vikings in a WPIAL Class 4A-Section 1 matchup, 64-25.
“We had a tough game last night and we pulled out a victory. We did some good things and we did some things that weren’t so good. I wanted them to build (tonight) and keep our mistakes down — we made some but I was really pleased with our passing and transition. That’s something we work on all the time. We try to get them to look ahead and advance the ball with the dribble and not allow the defense to get back in time,” Fred Soilis said. “I’m glad with the effort and I think we’re showing some continuity. We’ve been practicing in pods. As a full team, I think we have had fives practices since November and now it is practically the beginning of February. I know that they can do what we’re asking them to do. It’s hard to gain continuity when there are interruptions. It’s not how you start, but how you finish and our goal is to finish strong.”
The Yellowjackets will have further opportunity for cohesion with four games in the this week, but the signs of progress were evident in the victory over the Vikings.
Success from behind the arc, something that has been common place over recent years with the program, were once again on display against Valley. Freshman Morgan Croney started the shooting spree with a three to begin the game to give Freeport a 3-0 lead that they never relinquished. The barrage from downtown continued throughout the first half, including treys from Ava Soilis to give the Yellowjackets 7-0 and 14-2 leads. Senior Grace Soilis knocked down two more to help the Yellowjackets build a 38-14 lead after one half of play.
Valley’s ability to cause trouble on the offensive glass over the first 16 minutes was one of the focuses of Fred Soilis' address during the intermission, and his club responded in the second half, according to sophomore guard, Melaina DeZort, who took the message to heart with her work on the boards.
“During halftime, coach was getting on us, saying how we needed to box out to practice for later games. That’s really where we improved and started boxing out,” DeZort said.
Freeport ran away in the second half due to the adjustments made during the intermission, keeping Valley off the scoreboard until Diamond Guy knocked down a jumper with 1:15 remaining in the third quarter. By then, Freeport had already added13 points, leaving the five-man rotation of Valley further behind the eight ball than their depth had already caused.
By the time the fourth quarter began, Freeport was able to get a look at some of its reserves, so much so that a total of 13 Yellowjackets recorded a point by game’s end.
Grace Soilis paced Freeport with 15 points, while DeZort and Ava Soilis chipped in 12 points each to put three players in double figures for the Jackets.
The victory represented many things, including a step towards Freeport finding a true identity. Fred Soilis admitted that Friday’s victory was another step towards his team’s postseason aspirations. Further, it was the kind of game that has Freeport looking forward to its second matchup of the season against section heavy weight, Knoch. The Knights represent the lone loss on the Yellowjackets’ ledger and Freeport will have better idea of who they when the teams face off on February 11.
“My message to the girls is that its time to turn the switch on, and we did that. I think we turned it on a little brighter, and we’ll continue to turn it even more brighter,” Fred Soilis added. “Hopefully the second game against Knoch will be a different experience.”
Senior leader Grace Soilis echoed her coach and father’s remarks.
“Knoch is a great team and they have a lot of players. We need to box out and run our offense. We need to play tough defense when we see them,” Grace Soilis said. “We’re looking forward to playing them again.”
Before the Yellowjackets face the section leader in just less than two weeks, they will have more games and further opportunity to build upon what they gained against Valley, starting with a matchup on Monday, February 1 against against Derry. Freeport welcomes Derry on what will be senior night at the Freeport Middle School gymnasium.