How Emma Kate Smith's 'niche' as a 3-point scorer led to an Alabama high school record

Nick Alvarez
Montgomery Advertiser

The 3-pointer which set the Alabama High School Athletic Association single-game record was a step-back jumper.

Trinity's Emma Kate Smith had a fast break against BTW-Magnet on Jan. 2 as a defender trailed. Sensing an opening, Smith drove right, stepped backward and lofted a deep ball. It was her 14th made 3-point shot of the game.

Blake Smith, Emma Kate's dad and Trinity's coach, noted the coincidence from the sideline: Emma Kate's 1,000th point, scored earlier this season, also came after her signature move. 

It was the same move Emma Kate and Blake spent months practicing in their driveway and in extra shooting sessions between her eighth- and ninth-grade seasons. 

Five other AHSAA athletes have hit 13 three-pointers in one game. Emma Kate Smith, a 5-foot-8 sophomore guard, now tops the list with 14. 

"I never really felt like I was (in control of a game) before," Emma Kate said a few days after the Lady Wildcats' 79-24 win.

Trinity's Emma Kate Smith (12) puts up a three point shot against Catholic in the Class 4A, Area 4 girls championship game on the Trinity campus in Montgomery, Ala., on Thursday February 6, 2020.

It was the culmination of a few years of training and a plan fulfilled. When developing her game, Emma Kate and Blake decided to maximize the single-best part of her game — her shooting, specifically the step-back 3 — and it's helping Trinity (12-1) charge through Class 3A. 

The team's pregame shootaround felt normal, Emma Kate said. She followed her routine: one-handed shots two feet from the basket, zeroing in on the front of the rim; then jumpers near the free-throw line, keeping fingers on her left hand pointed forward; finally, 3-pointers, with the left-handed Emma Kate making sure her release hand is the only one exerting force on the ball. 

Her form was meticulously crafted throughout a three-month span, Blake said. Emma Kate's shots used to veer left too often, a result of her off hand hampering the ball's trajectory. So Blake attached a pad to Emma Kate's right hand and had her shot 10,000 times from a few feet in front of the net without attempting any other shot. 

"As they get older, you start figuring out what their niche is," Blake said, "We said, 'You know what, she's got to be a shooter.' ... That's where her ceiling is."

They were dissolving Emma Kate's muscle memory of her previous form with each attempt. It was a "painful" process, Blake said.

But it felt normal in the first quarter against BTW when she hit three 3s. The five she added in the second frame was customary, too. Smith figured she'd cool off in the next half, like she usually did. Then they kept falling. 

Emma Kate had games with eight and 10 3-pointers made last season. The margin was wide in those games and Blake subbed her out of the game. This summer, though, assistant coach Clinton Adams looked up the record, last set by Cold Spring (Cullman) High's Camryn Crider in 2019. 

Adams let Blake know Emma Kate was close at halftime. Blake told each player but Emma Kate. After two misses in the second half, Maddie Smith, Emma Kate's eighth-grade sister, checked in. 

Prep basketball notebook:Trinity's fast start guided by Emma Kate and Maddie Smith

Trinity's head coach Blake Smith high fives his daughters Maddie Smith (15) and Emma Kate Smith (12)during the annual Capital City Conference Tournament at Trinity Presbyterian School in Montgomery, Ala., on Monday, Dec. 21, 2020. Trinity defeated Montgomery Academy 41-37.

Megan Smith, assistant coach and mother of both, figured Emma Kate would have a better chance if her sister was feeding her the ball. Immediately, Maddie recorded two assists to Emma Kate. 

"I just felt good (that day)," Emma Kate said, "my form, it just felt in a rhythm."