Recent 1,000-point scorer Ray Hamilton and heralded freshman Artrel Foster aren’t the only Meadville High Bulldogs who have turned heads with jaw-dropping moments this basketball season.

A petite girl in a Bulldogs’ cheerleading outfit has created a major buzz with her energetic back-flips down the court during timeouts of the boys games.

Her name: Emily Mottillo. Yes, the same Mottillo who averages nine points per game for MASH’s girls basketball team.

A basketball player and cheerleader — in the same week, every week, all season. Do you know of another girl who does both, and so well? Didn’t think so.

Neither did a group of numerous local athletic directors and coaches the Tribune called this week.

“Emily has been blessed with a lot of talent,” said her father, John Mottillo, of her unmatched skill-set. “She is definitely a special girl. I am

very proud of her.” And the elder Mottillo knew early in Emily’s life that she was gifted and unique.

“When Emily was younger, she wanted to play sports with the boys, but she also enjoyed playing with her Barbies,” he said.

Emily Mottillo — who also was a four-year captain of the MASH football cheerleaders and will graduate with 14 letters — had a bombshell of an entrance into playing baseball with the boys.

While watching the neighborhood kids play, Mottillo (eight or nine years old at the time, she thinks) got her break when her mother (Anita) called her older brother (Joe) into the house — leaving one team a player short.

Up to the plate: Emily Mottillo. SMASH!!! She hit the first pitch into the woods.

“From then on, I was able to play with them,” she said.

“I’m telling you, Emily has some pipes on her,” said John Mottillo of her arm strength.

Some powerful legs, too. Mottillo also excels in track at MASH and is an avid dancer. She takes as many as six dance classes during the spring and fall seasons.

Mottillo’s favorite: basketball, cheerleading, track or dance?

“Without a doubt, dancing is my favorite,” she said. “I’ve been dancing all my life and I just love it.”

But basketball can’t be far behind. “To sum it up,” says MASH varsity girls coach Darryl Jones, “I’ve never been around a kid who never takes a play off. She just plays full out for the full game. I’ve never coached a boy or a girl who is constantly at full speed and full effort all of the time.”

That style of play has helped her net an average of just under 10 points per game this year, and she ranks as one of the two most accurate foul shooters in Crawford County at 70.9 percent. She netted seven straight from the foul line against Oil City recently, Jones noted.

All this when the true focus of her game is to play hard-nosed defense. “Her best skill is defense,” Jones said. “She takes the challenge every game to take on the best scorer on the other team. She accepts that challenge for the team. She is a completely unselfish player.”

As her senior year ends, she’ll likely have one more chance to match up with an opponent’s scoring star. Today, the Lady Bulldogs are expected to survive a tie-breaker challenge and be invited into the post-season playoffs, as the game schedule will be announced by district officials.

And the Meadville boys will be on the playoff route, too — so her crowd-pleasing backflips will also remain on display for a while longer.

That heels-over-head skill also came early, John Mottillo recalls from an early dance moment in his daughter’s life.

“I think it was her first dance recital and I saw this girl back-flipping right past me. I asked my wife who that was and she told me that it was my daughter. I couldn’t believe how good she was then.”

Academics aren’t a problem for Mottillo either. She is in the top 10 in her class and is planning on attending Penn State University’s main campus. Her goal: to make the PSU cheerleading team.

How does Mottillo do it all — sports, cheerleading, dance and a top-10 grade average? She explains:

“I don’t sleep much ... honestly,” she said. “I probably get about four hours a night. When I get home from basketball or cheerleading, I hit the books.”

One amazing teen.

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