In the final seconds of a tied Metro high school girls basketball showdown against Burlington on Tuesday night, Champlain Valley's Emily Kinneston took the ball in the high post, drove into the lane and drew three defenders.
Kinneston kicked it out to a wide-open Laurel Jaunich, a freshman who knocked down the winning basket as time expired for a 49-47 victory.
Two weeks ago, sensing the energy of BFA-St. Albans and its home crowd coming out of halftime, Kinneston promptly drained jumpers in the lane on three consecutive possessions. Game over: The Redhawks rolled to a 48-27 triumph.
They are examples of Kinneston at her best: An unselfish and ultra-athletic, high-motor guard who does it all for the Redhawks.
"I would say nobody does more for her team than she does," CVU coach Ute Otley said. "She can do stuff on the floor that nobody else can do."
Averaging 12.2 points, four steals, four rebounds and 2.5 assists per game in CVU's uptempo, pressing style, Kinneston is the lone returning starter from last year's squad that reached the Division I state final. And the junior's rise in play -- in terms of production and leadership -- has positioned the 9-0 Redhawks for another postseason run with a new, younger cast of players.
"She's had to take on more from a leadership standpoint. She runs our defense, she runs our offense," Otley said. "She is so critical to both ends of the floor. And she always gets the toughest assignment and she does not shy away from those responsibilities."
Kinneston's unselfishness and willingness to involve her teammates has impressed Otley.
"Kinneston couldn't care less who takes the attention. She's more comfortable when somebody else does. She's just that unselfish," Otley said. "She values team play. She fits perfectly in my system -- she's been like that since I knew her when she was a sixth grader."
Also an important piece of CVU's back-to-back girls soccer state titles, Kinneston's commitment to basketball went into another gear in the last couple of years. Basketball, she said, is her top priority.
"I have always been in between -- whatever season was going on, but I enjoy (basketball) more and I've been working hard at it," said Kinneston, who is hitting on 52 percent from the field and 78 percent from the foul line this winter, averages that have improved thanks to offseason drills."I'm trying to get stronger for college."
With five of CVU's top seven players graduated, Otley saw a need to rework the team's strategy -- from a half-court offense to more of a fullcourt, unrelenting press headlined by Kinneston, Kaelyn Kohlasch and others on a team that lacks size and experience.
"We are not the biggest, so we have to use our quick speed to our advantage," Kinneston said. "Our goal is to get to Patrick. We have to keep pushing and keep working on the little details."
If Kinneston is leading the charge, CVU's odds are pretty good in returning to the final four at Patrick Gym for the third straight year, according to Otley.
"She's so coachable; she gets it. She wants to win," Otley said. "I say run through that wall, she'll run through that wall. She's that kind of kid."