Freedom wins girls 6A title
The way Freedom girls’ basketball coach Dean Reiman described it, “time kind of stopped,” as Freedom senior Hailey Silfies hit the shot that struck gold in the Patriots’ 40-39 overtime victory against Nazareth in the District XI Class 6A final on Thursday night at Northampton High School.
“I’m going to remember it for the rest of my life, but I couldn’t have done it without my team,” said Silfies, who had 15 points on the night. “It feels amazing, and I couldn’t have asked for a better night.”
Silfies got the opportunity on a pass from Jennifer Kokolus who was inside and threw it back out to Silfies with seven seconds left on the clock.
“I kind of faked and then just shot. I saw I was open for a quick second and shot it. It was an instinct shot,” Silfies said.
As time ran out, the Freedom bench and bleachers emptied, heading straight for Silfies to celebrate the Patriots’ district title.
“We created a new Freedom way, and I’m super happy to be a part of it,” said Patriot guard Kyra Jefferson, who scored 13 points, all in the second half and in overtime. “We wanted the crowd to be in this with us. I’m just so happy we got gold.”
In the overtime period, Nazareth scored first on a shot by Talya Brugler, Silfies tied it, and Juliann Duignam put the Blue Eagles back on top. That gave Freedom 28.6 seconds to make something happen.
“I’ll probably never forget it,” Reiman said. “It looked like it was in slow motion. As soon as she let it go, it looked good. I’m very happy we’re on the winning end.”
Throughout the fourth quarter, the Patriots were only able to stretch their lead by five points. That came when Jefferson drove through the Blue Eagles’ defense to score with a little over five minutes left in regulation.
“In the first half they were playing good defense on us, and they were in the gaps, so it was hard for me to drive, but once they started playing man, I had something going, and it was easier for me to do what I needed to do,” said Jefferson.
Nazareth’s Madison Amy tied the game with a three pointer, and Jaime Youngkin put the Blue Eagles ahead 35-33. Silfies sank two free throws to tie again, and Brugler missed two free throws with 3.2 seconds left.
“My heart breaks for that kid because she is a great kid and a great player, and probably nine times out of 10 in a game she makes them, so that opened up the window for us, but you hate to see that,” said Reiman.
The Patriots had their own struggles with free throws, and with the first half in general, trailing by three points at the end of the first and second quarters.
“At halftime, I wanted to be a mirror to them in regards to how tentativeness, and fear, and nerves could lead to them having a long ride back to Bethlehem with a lot of tears,” Reiman said. “Obviously, I didn’t want that for them, and I didn’t want them to want that, but I think they needed a wake-up call in regards to what that result was going to look like.”
The Patriots came back with a new kind of ferociousness in the third quarter, scoring eight straight points, 11 altogether, while holding Nazareth to five.
“Definitely, I needed a wake-up,” said Jefferson. “It was a snap in my head. I knew I needed to show up this half. We wanted to win this game, and it turned out really well, and I’m really happy.”
Kokolus tallied seven points, Brenna Ortwein had three points, and Corrin Gill added two points for the Patriots.
“This was a new stage for us, but the second half, I don’t think it affected us as much,” said Reiman.
Also contributing to the Patriots’ district championship run were Carissa Norder, Kristina Wahba, Rachel Sanchez, Yasmine Herrera, Hope Dunfee, Gabrielle Glick, and Kayla Jefferson.
Jeff Barr is Reiman’s first assistant coach. Other assistants are Katie Drayton, Jordan Young, and Bill Dosedlo.
Scoring for Nazareth were Brugler with 15 points, Madison Amy with eight points, Duignam and Morgan Amy with six points apiece, and Youngkin with four points.
Both teams will compete in the PIAA State Class 6A tournament, scheduled to begin on March 9.
“I’m very happy that we’re on the winning end,” said Reiman. “Unbelievably proud.”