As head coach Meredith Jones watched her Freeport girls’ basketball team take down Westbury Jan. 17 by a final of 54-16, not only did she see it pick up a convincing conference victory to bring its overall record back to .500, but she also saw a glimpse into its future.
Against Westbury, the Red Devils (7-7 overall) started a lineup comprised entirely of underclassmen, led by freshman guard Laila Harrison and her team-high 17 points.
“She can put the ball in the bucket,” Jones said. “She’s a phenomenal shooter with a great three-point shot, and it’s been nice to see her expand her game. She can take people off the dribble and get to the basket. She’s great at leaking out and getting those fastbreak layups. She has developed into much more of a threat.”
Harrison’s backcourt partner, freshman Sabrina Ligonde, added another 14 to Freeport’s total, while freshman Madison Harris worked the block down low.
It was a good sign of things to come in a year that’s been a bit of a roller coaster.
After finishing with 18 wins and reaching te semifinals in Class AA last winter, the Red Devils are running in the middle of the pack.
“That’s been sort of the balance of preparing for the future,” Jones said. “We’re not writing off this season because we still are here, we’re still good and competing. But the future is definitely bright, and it’s exciting to see these young kids really buy in.”
Nia Phillips missed the game against Westbury due to illness. The senior’s pressence has helped ease Freeport’s transition, even at the expense of her own personal success.
“She had to change her expectations because we weren’t going to do what we did last year,” Jones said. “This year, she had to set different goals, and she’s really stepped into being a leader and a mentor for our young kids. I’m really proud of her. She’s learned how to check her frustration with us not winning the game but still doing well. Nia has really embraced her role.
More weight was placed on Phillip’s shoulder when co-captain, Queenasha Ellis went down with a torn ACL early in the campaign. “She’s really bought into the fact that the team is on her shoulders, Jones said of Phillips. “She’s leading this team and has set her intentions and goals to see the program grow this year.”
It’s a bittersweet year for Freeport’s senior class.
They were born too late to be at the top and too early to be there when their team gets back to it. However, they’re here just in time to help start the journey.
“My seniors are realistic and aware of where they are,” Jones said. “They celebrate the successes of the young kids. When it is their time to get out on the floor, they go out and do their thing to the best of their ability, but they do know. You can’t deny what it is.”
Freeport hosts Academy Charter this Friday at 7 p.m. before difficult matchups with Baldwin and Syosset next week.