By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLUEFIELD, Va. —
Not a bad way to start a high school career.
Emaleigh Gallinger averaged 12 points a game last week, leading the Graham Girls to a 3-0 record and the championship of the Little General Invitational in Bradshaw, and the freshman was named the most valuable player.
“It was a long drive, but it was worth it,” Gallinger said. “I didn’t know they were giving out all those awards, but that was very nice of them.
“I played as hard as I could and it is easy when you have a good team to work with.”
Her last name is Gallinger and she wears No. 15. Sound familiar?
Gallagher’s sister, Chelsea, was a four-year standout for the G-Girls, who led the formerly downtrodden G-Girls to the Group AA state tournament on two occasions.
“I remember that she broke the records and I always looked up to her and I have been in the gym with her since I was like 5,” Emaleigh said. “I have always wanted to follow in her footsteps throughout school because she scored so many points.
“She had a love for the game and her heart was in the game.”
The same words can be used to describe Emaleigh.
“I just love it,” she said.
Just a freshman in her first week of varsity basketball, the 5-foot-5 Gallinger was able to win the first Pocahontas Coal Association/Bluefield Daily Telegraph Player of the Week award of the 2012-13 basketball season.
“I play my hardest and I always make sure I have a good attitude towards it and that I just play how I know how to play,” Gallinger said. “I have worked hard, but there are some games that I haven’t done good and some games I kind of have, but I have worked hard.”
It shows. Raban has been around Emaleigh for much of her life. In fact, her prize freshman was a flower girl in her wedding.
“She is just a kid that works hard all the way through in the offseason, during the season, she loves the sport, she has a passion for it,” Raban said. “As a freshman I think she is very deserving of it because of the hard work and dedication she has toward the program.”
Gallinger started last week — and her high school career — with 13 points in a 53-26 season-opening win over Giles.
“It was nerve-whacking,” she said. “It felt good, I was a little nervous at first. It was a home game and everybody was watching, but I still played my hardest.”
With senior leader Liz Workman out with a knee injury, Raban was looking for a player to step into her role. It was Gallinger.
“If I had to pick a floor leader right now it would have to be her,” Raban said. “That is kind of sad to say with as many seniors as we have on the team, but Emaleigh has been on the floor the whole game.
“She only comes out if she gets in foul trouble. She has been there every minute of the game. I think the team looks towards her if we need a basket or if we need some kind of big play offensively or defensively, she is the one I think they look toward.”
That progress continued last Friday when Graham defeated Wyoming East, with Gallinger leading the way much like Chelsea used to with 14 points.
“They are very similar, Emaleigh may be a little more aggressive than Chelsea was, but very similar with what they bring to the team,” Raban said. “Hopefully Emaleigh can step up a little bit more and develop more quicker than what Chelsea did, but very similar in the aspects of the game..
“I have known her for a while and just to watch her grow and work over the years and develop not just as a basketball player, but as a young lady. It has been neat to watch and with the similarities of the two kids, it has just been special to watch her grow.”
Chelsea is now a sophomore at Kentucky Christian, but gave up basketball after her freshman season.
“We are similar, and we get along well,” Gallinger said. “I just really looked up to her when she was in school.”
Gallinger capped off her week by tossing in nine points in a 40-36 win over archrival Bluefield to claim the Little General title. She was chosen MVP, while fellow G-Girls Ashley Moretto and Erin Wilson were selected to the all-tournament team.
She is quick to credit her team for that award. Raban wasn’t surprised.
“They help out a lot, they understand,” Gallinger said. “They don’t take anything personally and they all step up to help the team out.”
“They respect her ability, she is a quiet leader, she knows the game, and the kids know that,” added Raban. “They know she loves the game and she pours 100 percent into it and the kids respect that so I think they respect her in that aspect.”
Graham went down to defeat on Tuesday for the first time this season, a 50-36 loss at Tazewell. Gallinger felt like that loss could pay dividends for the G-Girls, who played Giles again on Wednesday and left with a 46-31 victory, led by 23 points from Gallinger.
“I feel like (that loss) will bring us together more as a team and it will show us what we did wrong and that we are way better than what we showed,” Gallinger said.
Freshmen don’t always play much on a varsity squad, but Gallinger has earned her spot at the highest level of high school basketball. Much of the credit for her early success goes to Raban and her mother, Robin Gallinger.
“I want to prove that I was ready to move up and I played my hardest and my coaches have really helped me out and my mom does,” Emaleigh said. “My mom has a passion for basketball and she showed me a lot throughout the years and my coaches are really good and they believe in me like they believe in everybody else and that helps.”
While Gallinger enjoys individual success, she wants to win, much like her sister, who played a key role in turning around the fortunes of the G-Girls.
“We want to make it to districts and we want to go further than that,” Gallinger said. “If we come on as a team and work together and listen to our coaches then I think we can be successful.”
There is a definite resemblance between little sister and big sister. They even wear the same number, and now Emaleigh might carry the same expectations that another No. 15 did for the G-Girls.
Not a problem. She will just do her thing on the court.
“It is okay, but I am going to do what I can do,” Gallinger said. “I guess I will do my hardest and I guess the results will be what they are, but she was good.”
—Contact Brian Woodson
Bluefield (Week 1-1): Destiney Sims, 27 points, Little General Invitational All-Tournament Team; Tyra Jackson, 14 vs. Graham, Little General Invitational All-Tournament Team; Jessica Hayden, 10 points vs. River View; Dazia Edwards, 10 points vs. River View.
Giles (1-1): Tanisha Flinchum, 11 points vs. Graham; Kelsey Mosley, 9 points vs. Narrows; Amber Bradley, 10 points, 7 rebounds vs. Narrows.
Graham (3-0): Ashley Moretto, 15 points vs. Wyoming East, 7 vs. Bluefield, Little General Invitational All-Tournament Team; Erin Wilson, 9 points vs. Bluefield, Little General Invitational All-Tournament Team.
Grundy (1-0): Morgan Hall, 21 points, 13 rebounds vs. Tazewell; Loni Webb, 15 points vs. Tazewell.
Montcalm (0-1): Miranda Kendrick, 10 points vs. Mount View.
Mount View (1-0): Jordan Younger, 15 points vs. Montcalm; Ashleigh Belfiore, 11 points vs. Montcalm.
Tazewell: Whitney Saunders, 11 points vs. Lebanon, 10 points vs. Grundy; Autumn Hash, 11 points vs. Lebanon.
Wyoming East: Chelsey Duncan, 13 points vs. Graham, 16 points vs. River View, Little General Invitational All-Tournament Team; Breanna Pertee, 13 vs. Graham, 9 vs. River View, Little General Invitational All-Tournament Team; Allison Lovins, 16 points vs. River View.
Editor’s Note: The boys player of the week will begin next week. All boys and girls coaches are urged to make recommendations for this award. Call (304) 327-2813 or email firstname.lastname@example.org by Tuesday of each week.