Abby Walheim continues the family legacy of Villa Maria basketball

When Abby Walheim stepped on the court for her first practice as a member of the Villa Maria Academy basketball team she felt like it was a dream come true.
Coming to games for many years to cheer on her older sister Kristen, who recently completed her playing career at Catholic University in Washington, D. C. the younger Walheim was ready to continue the family tradition of playing for Villa Maria basketball head coach Kathy McCartney.
“When I was a kid I always dreamed of coming to Villa partly because of basketball,” said Abby, a freshman who spent her formative years at St. Patrick’s in Malvern. “When I used to come and watch Kristen play it seemed like everyone was happy and excited and when I first got here that is exactly what it was like.”
Tuesday evening, Abby created a memory that will last a lifetime for her and her family when she received a perfect feed from junior Emily Gillin and laid the ball off the glass as the buzzer sounded to give Villa Maria a 46-44 over AACA rival Merion Mercy in the PIAA District One Class AAA semi-final and clinch a spot in the district final along with a berth in the upcoming state tournament.
“I saw Abby out of the corner of my eye and I thought Julia was going to pass straight to her but she threw the ball to me,” said Gillin. “Once I received the pass I knew I had to get her the ball. Instinct took over.”
Walheim, who finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds said, “I knew when I received the pass I had to get the shot up. I knew there wasn’t much time so I just put the shot up.”
McCartney added, “Abby is a very smart player who just keeps moving. She has been solid for us all season but putting up a double-double in a district semi-final game is unheard of.”
While the transition from middle school to high school has its challenges, the fact Abby’s older sister matriculated at the Malvern campus made the transition easier for the younger Walheim.
“Abby and Kristen have a good relationship,” said McCartney. “This past weekend Kristen was celebrating senior day at Catholic so we let Abby leave practice early so she could be in attendance.”
“Kristen calls me after every game and sends me a text message with positive thoughts prior to every game,” said Abby.
Walheim’s heroics would not have been possible without the leadership of the senior class who made sure the younger players stayed positive and did not get too low.
“We wouldn’t be here without our seniors,” said Walheim. “They are great leaders who make sure we stay positive.”
Gillan added, “The seniors have been very supportive and they kept pushing us and look where we are now.”
“Our goal was to be better than we were last year,” said senior co-captain Laura Davis, following the Merion Mercy game. “We knew the district tournament was a new season and we just had to push and we worked so hard. We deserve this.”

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