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EHS girls cap improved season

At some point down the road, this past season may be one that can be looked back on as a turning point for the girls basketball team at Emmaus.

After winning just two games overall and none in the East Penn Conference during the 2018-19 season, this year’s team finished the year 10-12 overall, with five of those wins being against league opponents.

The Hornets were in the hunt for a District 11 playoff spot – their first since 2013 – right up until their penultimate game against Bethlehem Catholic, the defending state champions.

More than just the uptick in wins, head coach Kelsey Gallagher has seen players starting to truly buy into her system, which has her excited for the future.

“We’re seeing younger players who have played in this system now for a few years and they’re becoming more used to it and really taking to it well,” said the third-year coach. “I think having some stability in coaches and getting them used to this system is a big part of it.”

A case in point is freshman Keziah Brantley, who led the team in scoring this season, averaging just over 7.5 points per game, and was among the league leaders with 15 three-pointers this season. Brantley, and other young players, also seemed comfortable on defense, which is a huge component of Gallagher’s system and another big reason for the turnaround.

“We preach playing defense and our girls really worked hard to get better defensively and it showed this season,” said Gallagher. “Again, the younger girls have been taught that at the JV level and even in middle school, so it’s become second nature to them. We have a lot of players at those levels who are really doing well, so there’s a lot of hope for the future.”

Gallagher will lose just three seniors from this season’s roster. Alexis Brader, Alyssa Burkhart and Brooke Wunderler will all graduate in June, but there are four juniors who will be looked to for team leadership next season.

Burkhart finished her high school career with a career-high 26-point game against Whitehall to celebrate Senior Night. Both her and Wunderler were selected to play in the VIA All-Star Game.

“They were all important to the team and all three of our seniors did a great job for us this season,” said Gallagher. “With such a young team, we needed players that the coaches could rely on to help serve as leaders and they did that job very well.”

With the majority of this year’s roster being either freshman or sophomore players, next year’s team will still be somewhat on the young side, but the players will also have had the advantage of playing every season under Gallagher’s system, something that hasn’t been a part of the program since it underwent a number of coaching changes before Gallagher’s arrival.

The picture for the future is definitely bright for Emmaus as the young players continue to develop into stronger players.

Their task isn’t made any easier by the fact that they play in a tough division in the EPC with teams like rival Parkland. Several of those teams also have young rosters.

Next year’s Emmaus team will come in with the belief that it should be able to show enough improvement that it will be playing in districts and could also have a hope of playing in the EPC tournament if things continue to go well.

PRESS PHOTO BY DON HERBEmmaus senior Alyssa Burkhart scored a career-high 26 points on senior night against Whitehall. Copyright - Don Herb 2017_