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Emily Gillis of Division girls basketball is Newsday's Athlete of the Week

Emily Gillis recently became Division's all-time leading scorer,

Emily Gillis recently became Division's all-time leading scorer, passing her sister. Credit: Pablo Garcia Corradi

Not too long after Division senior Emily Gillis broke her sister’s school record for career points, Emily knew exactly what she wanted to do.

Gills texted her older sister, Maddie, with a simple question: “How does it feel to be in second place?”

Maddie responded: “You’re welcome for all the assists!”

Nothing like some good-natured teasing among record-setting sisters. Gillis scored 31 points on Monday in a 60-54 Nassau A-III girls basketball win at Jericho. Gillis now has 1,320 after Friday’s regular-season finale home win against Glen Cove. (Maddie Gillis held the previous Division program record of 1,261 points. Now a collegiate freshman, Maddie has averaged 22.6 minutes a game this season for 17-3 New Paltz.)

Incidentally, the Gillis’ parents are both Division graduates. Their father, Tom, played basketball at Division and Nassau Community College. Mom, Kathy, also played at Division and St. Thomas Aquinas College. In fact, Kathy ended her varsity career with 996 points and held the Division record from 1988-96, Emily said.

But the way Emily sees it, neither her nor her sister would have ever hit the mark without the other.

“I set a goal in eighth grade to score 1,000 points,” said Gillis, Newsday’s Athlete of the Week. “[Last year] we pushed each other when my sister got her record.”

After a second-round playoff loss ended last season, Gillis had one singular thought.

“We knew we had to get back in the gym,” Gillis said.

There was another interesting twist for the 5-11 Gillis. Long-time Blue Dragons girls coach Steve Kissane retired last season after 30 years with the program. Junior varsity coach Stephen Robins moved up to varsity, and made sure to talk to his super senior prior to this season about expanding her role on the team.

“I teach her in physical education and we also had open gyms [for basketball],” Robins said. “I started asking her about playing more in the low post, and she was like, ‘Yeah, let’s go. Let’s do it.’ ”

Gillis, who signed a letter of intent to Division I Gardner-Webb University, has evolved from being a long-range shooter into a more versatile, offensive threat, who can score from the inside or outside.

The guard/forward is averaging 21.6 points, 12 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game this season. Gillis, who is second in Nassau in scoring, is shooting 45 percent from the floor, including 35 percent on three-pointers, and has made 57 triples for Division (18-1, 12-0 Nassau A-III). Gillis, who had 32 points and 20 rebounds in a win against South Side on Wednesday, and Hailey Thomas are the lone Blue Dragon seniors.

“When your two seniors are your hardest workers,” Robins said, “it makes coaching easy.”

Robins marvels at the progression in Gillis’ game from a year ago.

“I used to go to the games and watch her play,” Robins said. “I’ve always been very impressed with her as a player, but she’s taken it to a whole new level.

“She’s a great shooter, but this year we talked more about the versatility of her game. Now she’s not just a shooter, she’s has a low-post presence. She’s more active on the boards ... She’s been outstanding.”

Gillis and the Blue Dragons will have to continue to be outstanding if they want to add to the banners that hang in their Levittown gym. Division’s last, and only titles in girls basketball, came in 2010 when the Blue Dragons won the Nassau and Long Island ‘A’ crowns.

“It’s motivational for us,” said Gillis, who is on the honor roll and is a member of Division’s National Honor Society. “The last few years we’ve either lost in the first or second round [of the playoffs]. I want to make sure that doesn’t happen to us again.”

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