The Black Hills High School girls basketball team is the top-ranked program in Class 2A.
Emma Duff, a senior, is the most seasoned player on that team. She averages 18.7 points per game as its leading scorer, and paced the Wolves to back-to-back league and district titles.
Does that make Duff the best player in 2A?
Black Hills coach Tanya Greenfield has challenged Duff to strive for big goals season.
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She said if Duff can put the Wolves in a position to play in the state title game on Saturday night in Yakima, it will convey just how pivotal of a player Duff is.
“Maybe she will end up being the best,” Greenfield said.
Duff, who is The Olympian’s 2017 All-Area girls basketball player of the year, has already accomplished plenty in her impressive high school career.
Beyond her scoring average — which led the area throughout the season — Duff, who is 6-foot and a Western Washington signee, adds another seven rebounds, three assists and two steals per game for Black Hills.
She passed 1,000 points for her career before her final season reached its halfway point, and has already poured in 411 total this season with at least two games remaining.
Tumwater coach Alyssa Vogt said what always stumped the T-Birds was Duff’s ability to score from anywhere on the floor.
“She can drive to the hoop, hit jump shots, create her own shot and shoot from that perimeter,” Vogt said. “She has everything you would want in her arsenal.”
Yep. Like that dazzling 3-point shot she wrecks defenses with or the behind-the-back move that can open up a lane to the hoop.
“She has it all,” Black Hills junior point guard Lindsey Nurmi said. “She has the height to drive, and she can pull up from way back.
“She has everything. She has every aspect she needs to be a good basketball player.”
Perhaps even a great one.
When the Wolves walked out of the Yakima Valley SunDome last March — with a sixth-place trophy in tow — Greenfield gave Duff, already a prolific scorer, a new benchmark.
“I said, ‘Listen. I rarely talk about my accolades as a player, but when we come back here next year, it’s your senior year, and I want you to surpass what I did,’ ” Greenfield said.
Greenfield was a stud forward for Sehome in 1987, when the Mariners made a run for the 2A state title. They were stopped short by Bainbridge Island in the championship game.
“I told her, ‘Surpass that goal. Be that player,’ ” Greenfield said.
Duff, who is a two-time 2A Evergreen Conference most valuable player, has the ability and competitive drive to do that. But she doesn’t trumpet it.
“It takes a village,” she said. “It’s not just one person that’s leading them. I have a lot of help.”
Though, Duff’s ability to develop as a leader throughout her career, has helped guide the Wolves to Yakima twice.
Black Hills has advanced to at least the state regionals each year she’s been there.
“I think she’s grown so much,” Nurmi said. “She has become the leader. Everybody on the team looks to her if things are going crazy.
“They want to pass to her. They want to get the ball to her.”
The leadership role was the final piece for Duff.
“Despite any points I need to score and rebounding, I think the captain leadership role is the biggest asset I need to bring,” Duff said.
Duff already had scoring potential when she walked into the Black Hills gym as a freshman. She was always going to grow into a dominant presence on the court.
But Duff said she had a “fiery attitude” coming out of middle school.
“It was hard to get a grip on me,” she said. “I think coming into this program, I knew what the expectations were and how I had to act, and how I had to control those fiery moments.”
Greenfield said she tried to help Duff understand that developing into a leader is a lifelong skill, not just a role on the basketball court.
“I would get really fired up and emotional,” Duff said. “I’ve seen other girls like that at that age. Being able to flip-flop and totally change that, and have the attitude I have now?
“I hope girls see that and think, ‘I want to be like that. I want to be like her.’ ”
Duff said the biggest thing that has changed is her ability to help inspire confidence in her teammates.
In stressful game situations, Duff said she’s become a player to offer words of encouragement: “Shake it off. You’re here for a reason. … You’re good enough to be on the court.”
“She’s figured that out,” Greenfield said. “Your team is following you. Where are you going to lead them?”
Hopefully along a long road in Yakima that ends in celebration on Saturday night with a state title.
“Our team is so strong, we have so many utilities,” Duff said. “I think that’s why we’re ranked No. 1.”
Having a player as steady as Duff has been throughout her high school career helps, too.
“She cares about winning, and she cares about making her teammates better,” Greenfield said. “With that, though, she knows when it comes down to it, we’ve got to have the ball in her hands.”