It was a moment of crisis for Emma Duff and the Black Hills High School girls basketball team.
The Wolves trailed Washougal by nine points at halftime on Feb. 15 in a Class 2A Southwest District 4 semifinal game at R.A. Long High School.
It was bad enough in the first half that coach Tanya Greenfield yanked Duff — her junior captain and the 2A Evergreen Conference co-MVP — from the game for a reset.
Duff wasn’t crashing the boards, Greenfield said. She wasn’t playing her usual tough defense.
“We have to have that from her,” Greenfield said. “I pulled her out and let her watch the game for a while.”
Lesson taught, lesson learned.
Duff and the Wolves came out inspired in the second half, especially on defense, and limited Washougal to 14 second-half points — including four points in the fourth quarter. Black Hills won, 49-44, to continue its drive toward Saint Martin’s University and the district championship game.
“She went in there and took over,” Greenfield said of Duff.
Black Hills went on to beat Mark Morris, 53-30, to win the district championship, which was all the more meaningful to Greenfield because it happened in the gym at Saint Martin’s, where she played college basketball.
Eighth-ranked Black Hills (20-3) plays Clarkston (11-12) in the regional round of the 2A state tournament at 2 p.m. Saturday at Centralia High School.
The Wolves go in armed with other good players — sophomore Lindsey Nurmi, an all-2A EvCo first-teamer, is a 3-pointer waiting to happen, and freshman Maisy Williams has matured into an honorable mention all-2A EvCo performer.
But Duff is Black Hills’ driving force. Her value goes beyond the stat sheet, and that’s saying something. Duff has the Wolves’ highest per-game averages in points (18), rebounds (9), steals (4), assists (3.5) and blocks (1.5).
Her value even goes beyond her versatility as a smooth 6-footer who is equally effective in the backcourt, on the wings or around the basket.
She has become a leader, just as Greenfield needed her to be.
Duff said she was “the quiet one,” just playing her game, as a freshman and sophomore. This year, her growing comfort in a leadership role was made clear during the Washougal game.
Duff remembers thinking, when things were going badly, there was no way the Wolves were going to lose.
“It just really takes one,” she said. “Like, ‘OK, then this will be my job. I’ll come out there and bring the energy, and if they want to match me, then they will.’ And they did.”
Duff’s coach had seen it coming.
“I don’t know if she would have been that player last year or even the beginning of this year,” Greenfield said.
The coach sitting her star player down against Washougal — which had the desired effect — is notable for its rarity.
“Mind you,” Greenfield said, “I didn’t leave her out for long.”