Erika Brumfield was offered both crutches but only took one. The W.F. West senior slowly pushed herself off the chair, a heavy brace protecting her left knee, and limped to be with her teammates.
The Bearcats girls basketball team had just triumphed over visiting Aberdeen in their 2A Evergreen Conference opener, a 69-11 drubbing of the Bobcats, and the two squads were lining up for the post-game handshake.
A four-year starter, Brumfield is usually the first on the court, not the last off the bench, as was the case this time. As a junior, the 6-foot-3 Brumfield averaged 13 points and 9 rebounds per game, helping her team capture their second state championship over the last four years with a 64-52 win over Archbishop Murphy in a game the Bearcats trailed by double digits early.
A two-time first team all-EvCo selection, her play caught the attention of several colleges, including Portland State where she will play next year.
Brumfield, who scored 16 points in last year’s state title game, has already made several visits to her future university. Unfortunately, the last trip was to have surgery on her torn meniscus, a successful procedure, but one that emphatically ended her senior season. She will have a second surgery to repair her torn ACL in a few weeks.
Both injuries occurred in the first minute of W.F. West’s first game this season. Despite the injury, Brumfield hasn’t missed a game.
She initially grimaces as she puts her weight on the crutch, but the painful scowl is brief, and soon a smile takes over her face as she makes her way through the line, congratulating each Aberdeen player and the Bobcats’ coaching staff.
“She absolutely is still part of this team. That’s her. She’s right there with us,” Bearcats head coach Tom Kelly said about Brumfield. “She never misses practice. She had to come late yesterday because of her physical therapy and she kept apologizing to me for coming to practice late.”
Brumfield, however, is not alone as W.F. West, which has had a stranglehold on the Evergreen Conference for the last decade or so, has had more than its fair share of devastating injuries this year.
Kelly quickly lists a number of varsity players who are sidelined with injuries, including Taya McCallum (ACL), Hope Thomas (foot) and Lauren Tornow (foot).
“We have a lot of people hurt,” Kelly said before quickly turning the statement into a positive. “And they’re all here.”
The Bearcats’ bench currently features an entire all-star roster in street clothes, all continuing to support their teammates any way possible.
“I think there’s something to be said for these kids who are hurt and they are right there at every practice and going to these games even when they know they aren’t going to play,” Kelly said. “I think that says something about the players in our program. I love that.”
While the injuries may be piling up, the goal remains the same for W.F. West – contend for another state championship.
Over the last nine seasons, few programs have been as successful as the Bearcats. The team has made eight appearances in the state tournament during that span, collecting a trophy each time with the highpoints coming last year and during the 2015 state championship run.
“Everyone steps up when needed,” said junior forward Annika Waring, who was W.F. West’s second-leading returning scorer at 10.2 points per game. “I know we have some injuries, but that’s no excuse. We definitely have to step up our game when we are out there. This program has very high standards and we all want to continue to play at that level. So that’s what we’re doing.”
The Bearcats have since shaken off their 3-4 start.
Wins over 3A programs Edmonds-Woodway and Peninsula during a holiday tournament kick started a four-game winning streak as the team adjusts to its new lineup.
“When someone goes down it obviously hurts us, but we know how to come together and just push through it,” said senior guard Courtney Bennett. “We’ve been improving every game. Our goal is just keep moving upwards.”
In the victory over Edmonds-Woodway, the Bearcats received a game-high 25 points from Waring and double-doubles from both freshman Drea Brumfield, Erika’s sister who scored 18 points and hauled down 16 rebounds, and senior Sarah Haakenson, who added 14 points and 11 rebounds.
The younger Brumfield put up a 19 point and 11 rebound performance in the win over Rochester, while Bennett and Waring added 16 and 11 points, respectively.
“This is just a great group. They have fun at practice. They support each other,” Kelly said. “I told them we’ve had some setbacks, but wouldn’t it be great if we win again. Wouldn’t it be great if we overachieve and get back to the state tournament? We can do it this year. It can happen. We’re getting better.”