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YOUTH MOVEMENT: With Leading Scorer and Point Guard Lost for Season, Karns City Will Rely More on Its Bevy of Talented Sophomores and Freshmen

KARNS CITY, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Last year, Naomi Venesky received ample playing time as a freshman on the Karns City girls basketball team.

So did Hanna Dailey.

Now this year, freshman Phoebe Brandon is seeing the floor as a starter.

The youth for the Gremlins is being asked to carry a big load, especially now that junior point guard and leading scorer Chloe Fritch is out for the season with a torn ACL and meniscus in her right knee. She will have surgery on Jan. 31.

(Pictured above, Karns City sophomore Naomi Venesky)

Fritch was injured 12 days ago. Karns City immediately went to work finding ways to soften that blow.

“We’ve had a lot of conversations on how to replace not just your point guard, your shooting guard and leading scorer,” said Karns City coach Steve Andreassi. “It’s a team, right? It always has to be the team. Next man up, as the sports saying goes. But that’s what it really is.”

Venesky will be one of those needed to step up.

She already has.

She had 13 points in the first half of a win against Forest on Wednesday. Venesky has been more apt to shoot and go to the rim, even before Fritch’s season-ending injury, and her scoring has gone up.

“I do definitely pass up shots,” Venesky said, flashing a slight grin. “My coach always tells me to shoot more. He tells me I have to score more. That kind of my goal now. When I come into a game, just sort of shoot more, try to put more points up on the board.”

Venesky’s athleticism is off the charts. That’s one of the reasons why she played so many minutes last season as a freshman and moved into the starting lineup down the stretch in 2022-23.

This year has been a natural progression of her skills.

“She’s still a 15-year-old girl,” Andreassi said. “She played all season last year as a 14-year-old. She’s still trying to get her feet wet, so to speak. And she’s starting to figure it out. She has confidence and she has a really nice shooting stroke. When you make a few shots, you want more, and I think that’s where she’s getting to.”

Venesky said when Fritch went down in the first quarter against Punxsutawney on Jan. 12, she and her teammates were in a bit of shock.

Then thoughts switched to how they could help to try replace her.

“We were all definitely worried, but we knew we had to score now,” Venesky said. “We had to put points up on the board, fill her spot and shoot for her. Just take over that role.”

Most teams would have a very difficult time replacing a player like Fritch. But Karns City may be able to absorb that hit more than most thanks to Venesky, Dailey, Brandon and a bench that features solid performers, most freshmen.

“I think it’s very equal between us,” Dailey said. “We’re all chipping in and doing what we need to do on the offensive end. We’re playing as a team and trying to win for Chloe and play our best for her.”

Brandon has already reached double-digits in three games this season. She did so again with 10 against Forest.

“She played the whole JV game and played three quarters of the varsity,” Andreassi said. “She can run all night. She makes a lot of plays with her feet and legs. She still really doesn’t know how to play the game — it’s all instinctual.”

(Hanna Dailey)

Dailey — who has the nickname of “Stretch,” has also had a solid campaign. She can shoot, get to the rim and her defense has been top-notch.

“She’s dominant (on defense),” Andreassi said. “She anticipates really well and I think that’s because she got playing time last year.”

The Gremlins, the defending District 9 Class 3A champs, see no reason why they can’t be in position to win another crown.

Thanks to the resilience of team.

“We’re all pretty team-oriented. We’re all together,” Venesky said. “All as one — that’s what we like to say before heading into a game. All as one. We work together as a team to put points on the board to win a game. We lose together, like just all together. Never separate.”