Knoch girls basketball starting over after playoff run
Knoch girls basketball leaned on a senior-laden team last season to reach the playoffs for the first time in six years, and behind them was a group that observed what it took to get over the hump.
The Knights don’t have any returning starters, but they have players such as junior guards Abbey Shearer and Skye Burkett, St. Joseph transfer Neveah Ewing and junior forward Lauren Cihonski, who are excited to get the chance to shine at the varsity level.
Knoch coach Chris Andreassi is looking forward to seeing how his young team comes together.
“In a way it’s a fresh start, but it’s really a continuation, because most of these girls were here last year and they saw what it takes to win,” said Andreassi, who is entering his third season. “They saw the competition that we’re facing. They learned from last year’s class what it takes to win in this league.”
Casey Kretzer, Emily Fraser, Gabby Fennell and Kayla Grafton were senior starters last season who helped the Knights finish 11-12 and in third place in Section 1-4A at 8-4. Hannah Rowe also started last season but is not playing this winter because she’s focusing on volleyball.
Knoch graduated seven seniors and has no seniors this season.
Shearer remembers what it was like to follow them last year and is looking forward to picking up where they left off.
“It takes a lot of work to become as good as they were last year,” Shearer said. “They did so well, so we have to try to match that. It’s going to be really difficult, but we’re going to do our best.
“It’s exciting because we really don’t know what’s going to happen. I feel like we have a lot of hope this year. It’s all new for us.”
Burkett is the lone returning letterwinner and was primarily the first player off the bench last season.
Ewing, a sophomore, started some for St. Joseph last season and scored 18 points in the Spartans’ quarterfinal playoff loss to Quigley Catholic. She has felt at home since joining the Knights in the summer.
“The girls have been including me in everything, and we’re getting along well,” Ewing said. “I’m looking forward to getting to play some games and bonding with this team during the season.”
Andreassi said Shearer has brought some good leadership to practice. Cihonski gives the Knights a presence in the paint. Junior Jaylee Lassinger, sophomores Sami Archer and Amanda Huckestein and freshmen Madeline Boyer and Mackenzie McGraw are part of a guard-heavy group expected to contribute. Terann McElravy, a sophomore, is a forward vying for playing time.
Knoch again will play in Section 1-4A with North Catholic, Freeport, Burrell and Highlands. Apollo-Ridge, Greensburg Salem and Indiana moved into the section, and Deer Lakes and Valley dropped down to Class 3A.
North Catholic won the WPIAL title last winter and figures to be one of the top contenders again this season. Freeport made the playoffs, and Apollo-Ridge was a Class 3A quarterfinalist last winter.
“The section is solid top to bottom, so it’s going to be a grind,” Andreassi said. “Having all new starters, we just have to focus each day on getting better and going through our section season one game at a time. I know that’s trite, but it’s the truth.”
Jerin Steele is a freelance writer.