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Alle-Kiski Valley spotlight athletes: Highlands' Kaison Branch, Kittanning's Emily Knepshield

| Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Highlands' Kaison Branch lines up a shot during practice Monday, Nov. 25, 2013.
Kittanning's Emily Knepshield

Kaison Branch

Class: Junior

School: Highlands

Sport: Basketball

Report card: The junior guard averaged 13.4 points per game this season to lead the Golden Rams in scoring. Branch said the highlight of his season came in a win over Freeport when he hit the game-tying 3-pointer to send the game to overtime. He then hit the game-tying 2-pointer to send the game to a third overtime.

Rumor has it you were pranked my a teammate about an interview for the newspaper?

He called me and I didn't answer at first. He then texted me saying he was someone from the newspaper. I called back and I asked him about the questions and he started laughing and I knew it was a prank as soon as he started laughing. It was Jordan Lineburg and Lavontae Martin.

What was your reaction when you hit the game-tying 3 against Freeport?

When I got open for a 3 I wanted to take the shot. I felt like I owed it to my team to get that win.

What was the play that was drawn up when you hit the shot to send the game to a third OT?

It was off a free-throw shot attempt and I got a rebound with six seconds left. We practice full-court layups, and full-court running and we have to make the shot in four seconds. I knew I had the energy and time to make the shot.

What's in store for Highlands basketball during your senior year?

I think we are going to make the playoffs, and now that I'm not the only one with experience, we have a couple other players that will help us make the playoffs.

Any plans to play a spring sport?

I'll play AAU basketball. That's the only thing I'll be playing. I'll probably play for the PK Flash.

Emily Knepshield

Class: Senior

School: Kittanning

Sport: Basketball

Report card: Knepshield scored her 1,000th career point in a loss against Hampton. She is among the team leaders in scoring, averaging 10.7 points per game. She and her teammates will take on Greensburg Salem in the preliminary round of the WPIAL playoffs.

Were you keeping track of how many more points you needed to reach 1,000?

No. I knew I was close, but I wasn't sure exactly how many I needed.

How emotional was it when you scored the basket?

It was really exciting. It was really nice because all the girls from Hampton came over and congratulated me. I thought that was great sportsmanship, and after the game their coach gave me the game ball. That shows what kind of program she's running over there.

What's it going to take to defeat Greensburg Salem in the first round of the playoffs?

We just need to come out strong. That's been a problem with us. We were coming out and not playing well together. I know we can be a really good team when we want to be.

Did this season turn out the way the team envisioned at the start of the year?

We were hoping we could beat Mars and Hampton, and we couldn't. We aren't unhappy with the way it turned out. We grew as a team.

Any college plans yet?

I think I want to attend Slippery Rock University. I want to go into the exercise science program. I don't think I'm going for sports in college.

— D.J. Vasil

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