Maisy Williams endured a painful 2017.
Late in the game during the Class 2A semifinals in March, the 6-foot forward from Black Hills High School had a front tooth knocked out by a Burlington-Edison player’s elbow.
The Wolves, missing Williams in the lineup in a consolation game the following day, finished fifth after falling to 2A Evergreen Conference rival W.F. West.
When her dental problems were behind her, Williams, a junior, helped the Wolves’ volleyball team to a state-tournament appearance of its own last fall.
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In her return to the basketball court, though, in a preseason jamboree game against Kentridge, she dove for a loose ball and collided with an opponent’s knee.
The result was a broken jaw, sidelining her until February and depriving a Black Hills team already searching for a new path following the graduation of reigning Olympian All-Area player of the year Emma Duff.
Williams, who averaged 11.2 points, eight rebounds and three blocks per game as a sophomore, and was an All-Area selection, seemed a likely candidate to replace Duff’s scoring production.
“That was devastating for her, her family and her teammates,” Black Hills coach Tanya Greenfield said.
Her players, most of whom had grown up deferring to Williams as a go-to force inside, spent all summer figuring out how to replace Duff – who is averaging 7 points per game at Western Washington University, thanks to a team-best 47 percent from beyond the perimeter.
“I asked the girls at the next practice after Maisy’s accident if they just wanted to ride out the season, or if our original goals still resonated,” Greenfield said.
Lindsey Nurmi, the Wolves’ lone senior and four-year starting point guard, remembers her teammates’ reaction.
“It was really a gut check,” she said. “Everybody had the season all thought out. We had to sit down and rethink, but everyone’s willing to take a few steps up to do what we hope to this season.”
The process of going back to the drawing board for the second time in a few months wasn’t painless.
“We had a lot of heart-to-hearts, the 10 of us together in the team room,” Greenfield said. “There were a lot of tears, a lot of emotions.”
With the Wolves taking an 8-3 record into the bulk of 2A EvCo play, the work in progress is promising.
“It’s taken a lot of hard practices and getting on each other, but it’s paying off,” said Nurmi, who is leading the Wolves with 13.8 points per game. “I’m so proud of our team.
“I’ve always felt I needed to be a leader because I’ve always been the point guard. Since I was a sophomore, I’ve been the only person my year in the program. “
Williams’ absence hasn’t left the Wolves without size.
Three players standing at 6-0 – Alexa Bovenkamp (6.6 points, 6.4 rebounds per game), Natania Serhan (6.1, 5.0) and Kennedi Greenfield – have picked up the slack.
“They were used to us getting the ball to Maisy,” Greenfield said. “They’ve welcomed the challenge. Now they have confidence. They’ve gone on the floor and figured out how to win.”
Black Hills’ two sophomores, Jordyn Bender and Megan River, made a smooth transition from playing for the Wolves’ 2A EvCo champion soccer team to sometimes-starting roles on the hardwood.
“I love soccer players,” Greenfield said. “They’re quick. They’re instinctual. Those two are gym rats. They love soccer, but love transitioning to basketball, too.”
Bender made the jump from playing junior varsity last season, while River gives Black Hills a second quality ball handler to compliment Nurmi. River is second on the team in scoring at 10 points per game.
Meanwhile, junior guard Lauren Sayhod has contributed 39.3 percent 3-point shooting.
As a result, Black Hills still has its sights set on a fifth straight appearance in the state tournament. The last two resulted in fifth and sixth place trophies.
“We may take a different path, but maybe not,” Greenfield said.
Williams recently had wires removed from her jaw and replaced by rubber bands. She’s eating some solid foods and has resumed limited basketball-related activity.
“Everybody’s working hard so that when she gets back, we will be an even better team than we would have been,” Nurmi said.