Girls' first-round game
Brainerd vs. Lookout Valley
Brainerd starters: Jumeka Brown (Jr.), Jamee Ward (So.), Jakaira Walker (Jr.), Naciea Ashley (Jr.), Neisha Price (Fr.).
Lookout Valley starters: Brianna Evers (So.), Elexis Foster (So.), Annie Marr (Jr.), Tennille Rogers (Fr.), BriAnna Workman (Sr.).
A severe knee injury forced BriAnna Workman to miss almost all of her junior season. However she didn't allow it to make her miss an opportunity.
Workman tore the ACL and meniscus in her right knee just five games into last season, but sitting on the bench next to her coaches allowed her to see the game from a new perspective. It was also the experience that helped her determine what she would do with her future.
"Having to sit pretty much the whole season was awful because I wanted to be out there with my team but I couldn't," Workman said. "But I learned to look at the game differently, to see it the way our coaches do and that gave me a new perspective.
"Now I have a better understanding of how even the small mistakes by everyone on the court affects the whole team."
Since being cleared to return to action, Workman has become Lookout Valley's leading rebounder, averaging 9 per game to go along with her 6 point scoring average. She scored a season-high 16 points earlier this week to help the Lady Jackets snap a two-year district losing streak and will be counted on heavily when they open the Times Free Press Best of Preps tournament against Brainerd on Dec. 26.
"It's a tribute to her that she was willing to remain a part of the team even though she couldn't play last year," Lady Jackets coach Kristen Clounch said. "She was there at every practice and game encouraging her teammates and helping them be better.
"Now she's like having another coach on the floor when she's out there. She's a very smart kid and we rely on her for a lot of leadership because she's our only senior."
Workman, who also plays volleyball and ranks third academically in her graduating class, admitted she was hesitant when she first returned to sports, worried about reinjuring her knee. But after a pep talk from her coaches, she decided she would have to overcome her fears to live up to her potential in her final season.
"Rehab was incredibly tough and I kind of babied my knee at first," Workman said. "But I finally just had to block that fear out of my mind and play as hard as I can. The other players look to me to be a leader, so I have to play hard and do whatever I can to help us win games."
Contact Stephen Hargis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6293