As he walked onto the court seconds before St. John Neumann received its bronze medals last Friday at Montoursville, coach Steve Sholder raised his right arm and delivered a slight fist pump.
For a coach who controls his emotions as well as any, it was a huge gesture, the equivalent of him jumping up and down in ecstasy. Eliciting that response revealed what a big deal this was.
Sholder has coached his daughter Emily and fellow senior Meghan Trenholm since they were five. How joyful it was then for him to witness both play two of their best games while helping Neumann make history. Trenholm and Sholder were a force Friday against Mansfield, combining for 43 points and 18 steals and leading the Knights to a 60-43 District 4 Class A third-place finish.
Neumann (16-9) clinched its first-ever state tournament berth with that win and makes its state debut Saturday against District 3 champion Steelton-Highspire.
"It's so remarkable. We told them this is it, this is what we've been playing for, this is what we've been planning for for years and they really stepped up," Steve Sholder said. "Meghan played one of her best games ever and Emily controlled the ball and did not let their pressure get to her. It was just fantastic."
So were they.
Trenholm scored 30 points, made nine steals, grabbed six rebounds and dealt three assists. Sholder scored 13 points, made nine steals and dealt six assists. Any time Mansfield threatened in the second half, one of those two answered. Together, Trenholm and Sholder have been two of the area's best players the past four seasons and Friday they were at their best.
"I feel like it was one of my best games," Trenholm said. "I just know when my team needs me I need to step up my game and play my hardest."
Trenholm always has. The four-year starter is the program's all-time leading scorer with more than 1,500 points. She also has more than 500 career rebounds and 300 assists. She became Neumann's first all-state selection last year and averaged 23 points in three district playoff games.
Sholder has more than 500 career assists and became the program's fourth 1,000-point scorer earlier this season. Like Trenholm, she also has been a team leader in steals and rebounds. Whatever it takes, Trenholm and Sholder have worked to achieve it.
Before the two seniors arrived in 2010, Neumann had one playoff win in 10 years. It also had just two 1,000-point scorers. Together, they have helped Neumann win four playoff games since then and have doubled its 1,000-point club. Nine days ago, they helped Neumann reach the district semifinals for the first time and Friday they were pivotal in making history happen again.
"We've been waiting to make history for a long time now," Trenholm said. "Me and Emily have played together for so long that it almost seems unreal that we get to keep playing."
Trenholm and Sholder set the tone early against Mansfield, scoring all 16 first-quarter points as Neumann built a 16-9 lead. By halftime they had combined for 27 points, 11 steals and seven assists as Neumann built a 31-12 lead against a strong 20-win team.
The Tigers kept trying to rally and pulled within 15 in the fourth quarter. Moments later, Sholder fed Trenholm for a basket before Trenholm hit a pull-up jumper a possession later. Neumann's other players fed off them and all four made a nice impact as Neumann collectively might have played its best game.
"We definitely look to them to lead the team and they did a really good job involving everyone," said sophomore Baylie Gerrity after grabbing nine rebounds. "I'm really thankful we have those girls on the team."
Neumann opponents are probably thankful Trenholm and Sholder will be graduating come June. The two have taken Neumann to new heights.
Most of their lives they have done everything on the court together. How fitting then, that Trenholm and Sholder will go down together as two of the best to ever play at Neumann.
"I'll look back at my high school years as a definite building block to my future," Trenholm said. "I'll never forget it."
And Neumann will never forget those two.