SULLIVAN — Emily White has emerged for the Sullivan girls basketball team this season.
White, a 5-11 junior guard, earned the ALAH Knights Classic Most Valuable Player honors as she helped Sullivan (11-4) finish second, with the lone loss a 49-44 game to Class 3A Mount Zion in the championship.
The other three losses have been to Class 3A Champaign Central (39-36) and fellow Class 2A teams Teutopolis (68-37) and Pana (59-51).
"Emily has been our catalyst the entire tournament and I think she has been all year," Sullivan coach Sheri McCain said. "Day in an day out she guards the best guards. She has battled all kinds of guards and has played defense for us non-stop. She has rebounded for us. You can't ask for much more from Emily."
Through 11 games, White has averaged 13.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 4.3 steals, as well as 0.7 blocks.
"It is really exciting," said White of earning the MVP award. "I have been working all year long and I have been really working on my defense. It is all coming together."
McCain said White plays great defense for her height.
"You don't see too many 5-11 or 6-0 guards that can get down and move their feet as well as she can and get a stop those short quicker guards like she does," McCain said.
White came off the bench as a freshman and started last year. Both teams made the Class 2A Sweet 16.
"Her freshman year she came off the bench, but was huge," McCain said. "She hit some crucial 3-pointers for us. Each year she is getting better and better."
White can shoot from the outside or play inside.
"She is one who doesn't show emotion," McCain said. "She just goes out and plays ball. She never gives up. She is up and down the floor non-stop. She is the teams motor and I love to watch her."
White has been playing basketball since the fourth grade and has been one of the taller players on the team.
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In the offseason, White said, "We had tournaments all summer long with school and travel ball, but I did a lot of shooting by myself and just in travel tournaments against bigger competition I was working on my defense and being more aggressive."
White, who hopes to play basketball in college, plays for the AAU team Sky Ice Elite out of Decatur in the summer.
One of the coaches in attendance at the championship game was her AAU coach Roy Gilmore, who coached White two summers ago.
"Emily can shoot the basketball," Gilmore said. "She is a kid that when I had her it was just a matter of confidence, a matter to taking the shoot. It took her a little bit to get adjusted to me to learn to shoot more, but as the summer went on she started shooting more. She works her butt off. That is one thing I really enjoy about her is when she is in the gym she is not taking a bunch of shots. She is taking quality shots. She is working hard to get better and that is what makes her a good ball player."
White said one of the things she has been working on is driving.
"I prefer to shoot from the outside and that is why I have been trying to work on my driving more because my freshman and sophomore years I definitely liked to hang out at the three-point line," White said.
White is a 38 percent shooter from the field.
"That is something we are working on, too, not just staying outside and settling for a 3-pointer, but taking the ball to the hoop," McCain said. "I think the last year-and-a-half she has done a really good job of it."
Sullivan played man-to-man and played a 2-3 zone trap as well as other defenses against the Lady Braves.
"We have some fun defenses," White said. "We have traps where I am playing up top that I really love because I get to run everywhere. That is my favorite. I get to run around and go crazy."
Gilmore said his teams like to trap.
"We like to make it a little more fun that way," Gilmore said. "The fact she said she wants to get better on defense is a plus. You don't have a lot of kids say that. They all say they want to score more. She wants to be a complete player and that is what I really like about her. It is not just putting the ball in the basket it is being the best player and the best teammate."