On the second day of practice for the 2012-13 season, senior Danielle Loving tore her Achilles tendon.
One ill-fated injury left a gaping hole in the Chiawana girls basketball rotation, and left some on the team wondering if their hopes at making another run at the state tournament was over before it started.
I had my doubts that maybe we werent going to go as far this year, said Jennifer Gonzales, who missed the entire nonleague schedule with a back injury. But my team proved me wrong.
Even without Loving, who has been on varsity four years and was slated to be the teams point guard, the Riverhawks have flourished.
A rocky start to the season, which included losing four of their first five games, has been overcome in Mid-Columbia Conference play.
When everyone got hurt, we as coaches got soft in practice, coach Steve Davis said. We started going easy on them to try and keep them healthy, which got us out of shape, and it showed on the court.
We decided we couldnt do that anymore, and theyve come around.
Chiawana leads the Mid-Col and can wrap up the league title by itself with a win against Walla Walla at 5:45 p.m. today in Pasco. If the Riverhawks win, they also get the No. 1 seed and an automatic berth into the District 5/8 tournament against the Greater Spokane League.
We always have confidence, Sierra Perez said. We dont expect nothing less, even with our captain down. It took us a while because of (Lovings) presence and her experience, but we knew we had to get better.
Delaney Hodgins and Bianca Gonzales have shouldered the scoring load that Loving left, while Pasco High transfer Cierah Alferness and Molly Sullivan have helped with rebounding. Loving wasnt only the teams point guard, but also the best rebounder.
We had to have two kids step up in those spots, and most of them were nonvarsity last year, Davis said. Its a situation of her experience, and her fear factor (Loving) brought to other teams that is irreplaceable.
Im extremely proud of these girls because of all the adversity theyve had to overcome.
Chiawana is guaranteed at least a share of the Mid-Col title, giving the program a title in each of the four years the school has been open.
To get the title outright, though, the Riverhawks will have to beat a very tough Walla Walla squad, which presents big-time matchup problems for Chiawana.
All of the Blue Devils starters are at least 5-foot-10, including post Torri Crawford at 6-2.
We have to do a lot of help-side defense, Perez said. If we do that and are there for our teammates, we should win.
Perezs outside shooting also will be key, as Chiawana needs to stretch the floor against the Blue Devils height, as well as play good solid team defense.
Its about who has more heart, Alferness said. We work from the outside, and we just have to go hard.