By CHRIS LARICK
For the Star Beacon
Kelly (Hitchcock) Emerine lists an event that occurred in 2012 as her proudest moment.
“Last year was probably my proudest moment when my dad (Gordie Hitchcock Sr.) got in (to the Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation Hall of Fame),” Emerine said. “He worked so hard for so many years. He played the low post and sometimes those people don’t get recognition.”
Emerine may have to revise her opinion in 2013, when she herself joins her father in the ACBF Hall of Fame on April 7.
Like her father, Emerine often played the low post, and she did it very well.
Though listed generously on the all-star teams she made at 6-feet, Emerine played the position for the Pymatuning Valley Lakers at 5-11.
Though they were a very good team throughout her tenure at Pymatuning Valley, the Lakers’ best year was doubtlessly her sophomore season (1990-91), when she was just one of three Hitchcocks on the team, joining her sister Ann, a junior, and her first cousin, Kim, a senior at the time. PV won its first 18 games that year and finished at 19-1, losing to Brookfield in the district finals in the final 30 seconds of the game.
“When we (the Hitchcocks) started to play together, we did really well,” Emerine said. “We were ranked fourth in the state.”
Because of her family background (the Hitchcocks all played basketball; a few are already in the ACBF Hall of fame), Emerine became acquainted with a basketball at a young age.
“I played basketball in the fourth grade; it was something all of my family did,” she said. “My father got me doing it at a young age. Mom coached me in the fourth grade. It was just a little basketball. I also played tee-ball and baseball.”
Because of her height, Emerine played center and sometimes forward.
“In our area, one of the biggest teams was Crestwood,” she said. “I don’t think any of their players were under six feet.”
At the time, Pymatuning Valley played in the East Suburban Conference, against teams from Grand Valley, Cardinal, Newbury, Berkshire, Ledgemont, Perry, Kirtland and Fairport. The Hitchcocks were joined by Heather McGann and Angie Pashley on that very successful 1990-91 team.
“We did set plays,” Emerine recalls. “I was on the right side at the top of the key. We had some pretty good point guards. Grand Valley was always a big game for us. In the tournament, Berkshire was a big game. One of our guards had a grades issue (when we lost).”
“She was a very good defensive player in the paint, whether we were in the man-to-man or the zone,” her coach, Beth Helfer, also a member of the ACBF HOF, said. “She controlled the boards and pushed the opposing player out from the rim. She had a nice jump shot within 15 feet. For a player her size, she was an excellent passer, getting it inside or throwing cross-court. She’d get the ball into the low post or high post. She had a lot of assists.
“She was just a good all-around player. She could play the high post, roll to the basket. A lot of times, we’d put her at the point on our press. She had a lot of athletic ability and a great attitude. You couldn’t ask for a more coachable player. She’d take extra practice to work on her footwork in the post or work on passing. She was a real team player, every coach’s dream. I wish I had a hundred of her.”
As the Hitchcocks graduated, Pymatuning Valley’s victories went down, but Helfer still remembers the Lakers winning 15 to 17 games each of Emerine’s years.
“I had a lot of fun playing,” Emerine said. “We did fairly well, an above-average team that competed well. Rebounds were a big thing for me. I probably averaged 10 to 15 points a game, with about the same or more rebounds. Our guards were probably our highest scorers.”
Lettering for three years at PV, Emerine was an All-Ohio selection and first-team Star Beacon All-Ashtabula County in 1992 and 1993, was honorable mention All-ESC in 1991 and first-team all-ESC in 1992 and 1993 and was named to the second team All-Northeast Lakes district in 1993. She was the school’s MVP in basketball in 1993 and serveed as co-captain of the Lakers in her junior and senior seasons.
Emerine also played volleyball for coach Shari McCaslin and softball (as a pitcher) for Helfer. But her best and favorite sport was basketball.
She earned a partial basketball scholarship to Walsh College and played forward there for two years.
“I played some center, but girls were a lot taller there,” she said.
In her junior year at Walsh, Emerine decided to focus on her studies and gave up basketball.
“I wanted to be a nurse and focused on my career,” she said. “I’m a registered nurse now, got my associate degree in three years.”
After college she went to work at Broadfield Manor in the Madison-Geneva area. She now works at Lake Health Home Care, a business that sends its nurses into homes.
“It’s more flexible,” she said. “I have two kids, 7 and 3. I enjoy that a little more. It’s nice to help people. We serve all of Lake County and some of Geauga County. I work as needed, otherwise, I stay home with my kids. I’d rather take care of them than take them to day care.
“Some day I’ll go back. I miss it a lot, but you have to make sacrifices sometimes.”
Emerine met her husband, John, in Columbus after returning to Ohio from training she had in Arizona. John is a pharmacist with Metro Health in Cleveland. The couple lives with their children, Lydia, 7, and Gavin, 3, in Munson Township, near Chardon.
“I do enjoy it,” She aid. It’s a small town. I grew up in Richmond Township.”
Emerine has taken up running (along with her sister, Ann) and competes in half-marathons and ran her first marathon last May.
“I’m probably in better shape than when I was playing basketball,” she said. “And it’s a great stress reliever.”
Meanwhile, Gordie Sr. the doting grandfather, is already grooming the grandkids for a basketball career.
“Dad is already training (Lydia) for first-grade basketball,” Kelly laughs. “He already has her dribbling. We go to the YMCA and play basketball there. It’s hard for me to sit on the sidelines.”
Larick, a retired Star Beacon sports writer, is a freelance writer from Geneva.