Gaels”heartbeat’ emerges

Sheryl Krmpotich knows better than anyone else what Tonishia Childress can do with the basketball in her hands.

Not only did Krmpotich coach Childress the past four years at Bishop Gorman, but she also had to defend the 5-foot-6-inch point guard during practice this season.

“She was motivated and driven and refused to lose, and she got angry when she did lose because as coaches we would taunt them,” Krmpotich said playfully. “She’s one of those special kids that has really blossomed and evolved her game to become one of the top kids in the state.”

Childress was the driving force behind a Gaels team that went undefeated in the Southwest League and advanced to the state title game for the first time since 2010.

As a result, Childress has been named the Review-Journal Division I girls basketball Player of the Year.

“She’s a gem, and she’s the heartbeat of the team,” Krmpotich said. “Once she relaxed and played her game, there’s nobody that could stop her.”

As a freshman, Childress was the understudy to Aaryn Ellenberg, now a first-team All-Big 12 performer at Oklahoma. The lessons Childress learned then came in handy this season.

Childress was one of two seniors — along with April Rivers — on Gorman’s roster, which included five freshmen among its nine players.

“For her to lead this team and guide this team to where we ended up was amazing,” Krmpotich said. “You can be a verbal leader and not do things right on the court, but she did things right on and off the court.”

The energetic Childress averaged 10.6 points, 3.4 rebounds and 6.6 assists as a senior, and she had a knack for hitting big shots.

Childress’ bucket with 13.6 seconds left proved to be the winning shot in the Gaels’ first meeting with rival Centennial. In the regular-season finale, Childress banked in a running 25-footer as the buzzer sounded to give the Gaels a 52-49 victory over Centennial that clinched the league title.

In a state semifinal against Liberty, Childress’ layup with 1:41 remaining helped Gorman pull out a 51-48 win.

“I just felt that when something needs to be done that I should (do it),” Childress said. “Even if I didn’t have the ball in my hands, just make sure the right decision was made.”

Childress’ quickness caused problems for opposing players, but it was her court vision and passing ability that set her apart. Krmpotich said Childress already distributes the ball better than most college players.

“I’m able to see things a lot faster than most people,” Childress said.

Childress is scheduled to make an official visit to Austin Peay this weekend and also is considering Boise State and Montana State.

Krmpotich said Childress has set the bar high for the Gaels’ next point guard.

“She took the challenge of having such a young team and a small team and said, ‘Hey, we’re going to do our thing,’ ” Krmpotich said. “And she did it very, very well.”

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