JT’s Searfoss is TN Girls Basketball Player of the Year
Jim Thorpe’s Skyler Searfoss talks like a seasoned veteran. More importantly, she plays like one.
“I like to be in control. I want the ball,” said Searfoss when describing her attitude on the court.
That type of confidence is something you don’t see from most freshmen.
But Searfoss isn’t your typical freshman.
Her combination of consistent play and clutch performances led Jim Thorpe to a school-record 26 victories this season.
It also earned Searfoss is the Times News Girls Basketball Player of the Year award.
The freshman phenom, who sparked the Olympians to an undefeated regular season, a Schuylkill League championship, and a District 11 Class 4A title game, was first on her team in 14 statistical categories. Perhaps even more impressive than her near 19 points per game average were her shooting percentages. Searfoss shot 53 per cent from the floor and and netted 80 percent from the free throw line.
She credits her personal practice routine for the quality of her performance.
“Each day in my yard, I take 200 shots and I shoot 100 free throws,” Searfoss said.
Her scoring accuracy mostly comes from high percentage shots taken from in and around the paint.
“I like to get in close when I take my shots,” she said. “They are easier to make and you get fouled a lot when you shoot inside.”
Searfoss, who already has her goal of playing college ball at St. Joseph’s in Philadelphia, scored a total of 521 points this season. She is currently on a pace to not only become the school’s leading all-time scorer, but she might be the first to ever score 2,000 points in a career.
But Searfoss is more than just a scorer, as she led the team with 96 assists. When defenses collapsed around her, Searfoss consistently found open teammates for open shots.
In three victories over Tamaqua — a playoff-bound division rival — Searfoss was the top scorer in each, shooting at nearly 60 percent from the floor. She also made good on 75 percent of her free throws against the Raiders, including several in waning minutes of the first two games between the teams when the outcomes were still undecided.
She proved to be the complete player, excelling defensively as well, as her 98 steals led the team.
Searfoss recalled one defining moment in the postseason that secured the Schuylkill league title for the Olympians. With the score tied against Mahanoy Area and the clock ticking off the final minute, Searfoss stole a pass and dribbled the full length of the court with a defender locked to her side and scored with a left-handed layup on what became the winning basket.
“When I practice in my yard, I put my mindset into big moments of games” Searfoss said. “I have to make the shot, the free throw or the pass that will make the difference.”
No one appreciated Searfoss’ hard work and dedication to the game more than Olympian coach Rob Kovac.
“Skyler has an unbelievable court sense,” said Kovac. “She sees the whole floor and her composure allows her to make outstanding decisions with the ball.”
Although inexperienced in a high school basketball sense, Searfoss has spent many waking moments in the gym or at the playground developing her skills.
She’s been a team manager since third grade, and has played AAU basketball for several years against talented and more experienced competition.
“Skyler’s game has a calming effect on the rest of our team because she never plays too fast,” said Kovac.”She is so efficient when she has the ball.”
In a late-season game against North Schuylkill, the Olympians were down 18-10 early in the game. With her team’s undefeated season in jeopardy, Searfoss scored eight straight points to tie the score, as Thorpe went on from there to post the victory.
“My teammates relied on me,” Searfoss said, “ and no one thought we could go undefeated because our team was so young, but we never felt that way.”
So what can the TN Player of the Year do in the next three seasons to improve her game?
“I need to get better with my left hand, and also work on my three point shot,” she explained.
Kovac agreed that Searfoss, who will see more time at point guard after mostly playing the wing this season, can add range to her jump shot.
“Skyler took only a total of nine three point shots in 28 games,” Kovac said. “When she adds this component, she’ll have yet another dimension to playing at such a high level.
“She will definitely be our go-to kid next year.”
As for fans of Jim Thorpe basketball, they will have three more years to watch this “go-to kid” lead their team to what should be plenty of regular season victories and potential postseason runs.