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New JT girls hoop league established

  • BRAD HURLEY/TIMES NEWS Cassie Henry (left) and Chelsea Smelas (right) are two of the founding members of the Jim Thorpe Women's Summer Basketball League.
    BRAD HURLEY/TIMES NEWS Cassie Henry (left) and Chelsea Smelas (right) are two of the founding members of the Jim Thorpe Women's Summer Basketball League.
Published July 16. 2014 04:00PM

Most athletes don't need help remembering their high school's biggest rival.

The anticipation, the intensity and the effort when playing against that opponent was always at another level.

For some, even being in the same room with a rival athlete was tough.

However, as the years pass, the time clock gets punched and families begin to form and that's when the rivalries usually fade away.

There is now a new reason why old rivals can get past their old vendettas the newly established Jim Thorpe Women's Summer Basketball League.

The league is the first of its kind in the Times News area and has brought together old rivals, now working together to compete in a game they're still passionate about playing.

Jim Thorpe graduates Wendy Smelas, Chelsea Smelas, and Cassie Henry are the founding members of the league, which they created to give adult women an outlet to still compete in the game of basketball.

"We wanted to create something for the women in our area to have a place where they could come out and play basketball competitively," said Chelsea Smelas. "The closest leagues are Pottsville and Allentown, so we just put some feelers out there on Facebook to see who would be interested and we got some messages. Once we had the interest we had to go to the borough council and get approval to use the court at Memorial Park and then things just picked up from there."

The league currently has four teams and one team in particular is chalked full of players that used to be rivals.

A team mostly made up of players from Marian, Tamaqua, and Panther Valley are competing in this year's JTWL. To those of you who are familiar with coal region athletics, that probably wouldn't be the case during these ladies' high school careers.

The team consists of three former Times News Basketball Players of the Year in Panther Valley's Trish O'Gurek, Marian's Tricia McElmoyle, and Tamaqua's Erika (Barron) Davis.

"It's so much fun playing with these girls. Some of us competed hard against each other in high school, but then became friends after that," said Davis. "Now it's pretty easy to play with one another because we all know the game and we can still all play a little bit. Hopefully, the league can continue to grow and this can become an even bigger thing for the community."

McElmoyle believes that the community aspect is much bigger than the old rivalries they had back in high school and that a women's basketball league is just what the area needed.

"This is great for our area," said McElmoyle. "It gives girls around here a place to go and get some exercise and have fun as well. It's just a great atmosphere that they've created and a lot of people have come out to watch and support the league."

Maybe the most important thing is that the league promotes women just going out and playing basketball. More often than not, area basketball courts are empty, and that's something that maybe the JTWL can change.

"It's nice to see the younger kids coming out to watch us play and shooting around on the side baskets," said former Panther Valley alum and current Palmerton girls assistant basketball coach Suzanne Lynn. "We're in an age right now where the kids are totally consumed with technology and there is no doubt I think we would all like to see the courts filled with more female basketball players. I think this league can help with that, especially if it can continue to grow."

The JTWL is played on Tuesday and Wednesday nights at Jim Thorpe Memorial Park at 7:15.

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