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Kittanning girls stifle Freeport in Section 1-AAA

| Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014, 10:57 p.m.

Both teams struggled shooting from the floor, but Kittanning got the job done from 15 feet away.

The Wildcats made 18 of 26 free throws and played lockdown man-to-man defense to pick up a Section 1-AAA win at home over Freeport, 41-26, on Thursday night.

Emily Knepshield scored 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds for Kittanning (13-5, 8-2), which kept itself alive in the race for the section title with games remaining against section leader Hampton and second-place Mars.

“We've been working real hard to get where we're at, and we're going to go out and give them a game next week,” Kittanning coach Janelle Kotyk said.

Zoe Soilis led playoff-bound Freeport (9-9, 5-5) with 14 points, but only one other Yellowjackets player — Macy Smolic with five points — made more than one field goal.

“Give credit to Kittanning. They played good man defense,” Freeport coach Paul Sylba said. “They took away a lot of our options, and we couldn't buy a basket even when we got good looks. One of those missed shots, if it's made, who knows how it changes momentum?”

Soilis started well as she scored five and assisted on the other of her team's first six baskets to give Freeport a 12-11 second-quarter lead. But Kittanning put the clamps on Freeport and began finding its own way to the rim and the foul line.

The Wildcats put together a 19-0 run by holding Freeport scoreless for a span of 7:36 that crossed halftime, and Kittanning repeatedly got to the line by attacking the basket on drives and pick-and-roll plays.

“We knew we had to concentrate on Soilis. She's the heart of their offense,” Kotyk said. “She does a great job and still ended up with 14, but we did a good job minimizing fouls and not giving them second-chance opportunities by blocking out.”

Kittanning's free-throw barrage was led by Tiffany Montgomery, who scored eight points and was 6 for 8 at the line.

Knepshield was 4 for 4 at the stripe, and Alaina Thomas scored all her points off the bench by going 4 for 6.

“We seemed to start out a little rusty shooting the ball today because we haven't practiced much due to the snow,” Kotyk said. “We tried to see how it would go from the 3-point line, and it wasn't there, so we made an adjustment and took it to the hole.”

Freeport never cut the lead to fewer than 11 points in the fourth quarter. The Yellowjackets are 0-5 against the section's top three and 5-0 against the bottom three as they approach the postseason.

“The goal is to make the playoffs and try to survive, but in Triple-A, it's a challenge,” Sylba said. “With Mars, Hampton, Indiana, the teams in Blackhawk's section, there's a lot of good teams at the top. But we're looking forward to it.”

Kittanning also won the battle on the boards. The Wildcats had a 38-29 rebounding advantage, led by Emily Klingensmith with 12.

Knepshield's 14 points also pull her closer to the 1,000-point plateau. The senior guard has 985 points with at least four games remaining.

Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at mgrubba@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Grubba_Trib.

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