Eckwahl Leads Sherman To Top In Class D
The unprecedented became the routine for all of the players, coaches and parents involved in the 2021 girls basketball season.
Taking place in the midst of a pandemic, games were moved at the last minute, state championships were canceled, teams were forced into quarantine and fans were barred from attending games.
In the midst of all the chaos, there were also examples of positive but unexpected events.
Look no further than the campaign of Post-Journal Coach of the Year Emily Eckwahl, who led the Sherman Wildcats to a 12-3 record and a Section VI Class D title.
The final game securing that championship was a 46-40 win over Panama, a team led by Eckwahl’s own former coach Dennis Hinsdale.
Not often do players get a chance to line up across the hardwood from their former coaches with a title on the line.
A 2010 Post-Journal Coach of the Year himself, Hinsdale was not surprised that his former player successfully made her way behind the bench.
“I always thought when I got named the coach at Panama that this is going to be cool because I’ll get to coach against my old player, but thinking about it now it must be I’m getting old or something,” Hinsdale said. “I have known Emily all my life and she played for me. So I was really looking forward to it.
“The first game it was at Panama and we won it by three,” Hinsdale recalled. “The second game at Sherman they killed us, but my point guard was out injured.”
The Panthers grabbed a win in their first meeting of the year on Feb. 18, while the Wildcats got revenge with a 47-22 win on March 8 in the absence of guard Mandy Brink.
The third meeting of the season, taking place with a sectional title on the line, offered some of the most competitive basketball played this season, with Sherman edging out a 46-40 win.
“She (Brink) came back for the playoffs and then we ended up going up (to Sherman) because they were the No. 1 seed,” Hinsdale said. “We made a game of it, it was close, it was 42-40 with 24 or 26 seconds left and we had a chance. It was fun, a fun game to coach and I think the kids really had a good time playing in it even though it was kind of nerve-wracking. I told (Eckwahl) if I was going to lose this game she was the one person I don’t mind losing to.”
A 2004 graduate of Clymer Central School, Eckwahl (then Deuink) was named a Post-Journal All-Star after her final season on the hardwood, averaging 9.9 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.5 steals and 2.8 assists per game.
As a three-year starter for Hinsdale, it was clear that she had the comprehensive knowledge to pursue coaching in the future, should she choose to do so.
“She was a good player, a team leader, very calm cool and collected. Never got too high, never got too low. She was a good athlete,” Hinsdale said. “She certainly fit the criteria to be able to coach. She was certainly a student of the game, a good evaluator of talent. Her playing the point guard position was probably a big benefit because she could see the whole floor and knew what to do. I know that once she got to varsity, I really didn’t have to coach her much. She knew the game plan and how to execute it … and she always did.”
Eckwahl now joins the likes of Hinsdale as Coach of the Year, following in the footsteps of four-time winner Mel Swanson as well, who last claimed the honor for Sherman in 2013.