Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
CHILLICOTHE — You either love or hate Emily Coleman. There is no in between.
During her four-year basketball career, Unioto’s senior point guard has hung her hat on playing in-your-face defense, destroying opponents’ game plans, and frustrating ball-handlers.
She’s never lost her moxy, she’s always had a bulldog mentality, and her tough-nosed nature has helped the Shermans win, win and win some more.
With a target painted red on her and her teammates’ backs over the past four seasons, Coleman’s attitude has been the element needed to keep the storm rolling.
She’s been the one constant in an ever-changing landscape.
“I think some of the better teams, when you look at them, you kind of get an intimidation factor from them,” Coleman said. “People know. People talk and want to be like them. I think I’ve always tried to come out and be like that. [Unioto head coach] Jeff [Miller] has always said to be a little bit cocky and to always make your opponents fear you. That’s always came naturally to me. But I think we’ve all kind of picked up on that. We’ve always had a target on our backs.”
That’s only made her better, and it’s made her realize what she has to fine-tune on the fly.
“When I moved schools, I realized, ‘Wow. People really do hate [Unioto].’ Then I started playing sports and it was that much more evident,” Coleman said. “Everyone wants to beat us, we get everyone’s best shot … every game is going to be the biggest game of the season. So you have to be ready and you have to adjust to whatever’s thrown your way.”
While Unioto’s senior class has six members — Amber Cottrill, Hallie Pinkerton, Cree Stulley, Jerzi Paul and Alexis Miller — Coleman has been the leader of that group on the hardwood since day one.
Her leadership model started to mold as soon as she entered high school.
“My freshman year, our seniors really stepped up and helped me get into that leadership role,” Coleman said. “Caroline Thiel and Morgan Popp, everyone really kind of followed in their footsteps. No one wanted to make the older girls mad. But they realized that they weren’t there to bully us or tell us what to do. They were there to set an example. That’s kind of what I’ve modeled my leadership after.”
At one time, Coleman looked up to older girls. Now, she’s the one being looked up to.
That includes her sister, Sophie, who’s a freshman at Unioto.
“I want her to be more aggressive,” Emily said, laughing. “Sophie has been around basketball forever. She’s been at every tournament with me, she started playing AAU this year … and I think she’s learned from those times.”
While Sophie could very well take over point guard duties for Emily in the years to come, for now, it’s her post to man.
She’s done that quite well during her tenure, posting 9.3 points, 2.9 assists and 2.5 steals per game. That equals out to a total of 822 points, 256 assists and 224 steals in her career.
Behind those numbers, the Shermans have won two straight Scioto Valley Conference titles, one shared with Southeastern in 2017-18 and one outright, with a Gold Ball, last winter.
With Coleman on its roster, Unioto is 73-17 overall and 50-4 in the SVC.
“These last four years have flown by,” Coleman said. “It really hit me at the end of volleyball season. Then we’re into basketball and Jeff is always telling us that any game could be your last. So that’s why I play hard. It could be over at anytime.”
The Shermans have the opportunity to wrap up their third straight conference title on Thursday when they host Southeastern. When the two tip off, Unioto will come in with a 33-game winning streak in conference play.
Coleman says she’s felt the pressure to continue both of those streaks all year long.
“I feel it. So many people hyped us up and I don’t want to let them down,” Coleman said. “We have to go out every night and show that we are really that good.
In the bigger picture, as her career winds to an end, Coleman is also hoping she can lead the team down a lengthy tournament path. Last season, the Shermans ended their run with a hard-fought 35-31 loss to Sheridan in a Division II district semifinal.
This year’s tournament seeds will be revealed this coming Sunday.
Coleman — and her teammates — have extra-needed motivation to go on a run.
“I think we want it more this year. We’ve been there and we’ve lost a couple of times. We played such good defense against Sheridan last year and I think we’re still feeding off that loss. We learned a lot of lessons and it’s our last time for these seniors. We’re ready for it.”