HARRISONBURG – A couple of minutes before Tuesday’s basketball game against Broadway, Harrisonburg High School’s Keyana Whitley-Duncan was bouncy and raring to go. But before the game even started, she was sitting on the bench, her left leg elevated, and an ice pack resting on her swollen ankle.
On a night when the Gobblers weren’t playing their best, a freak injury in warm-ups might have cost the Blue Streaks an upset.
Whitley-Duncan, who averages around 19 points per game, rolled her ankle by stepping on her teammate’s foot during a warm-up drill moments before tip-off, and ended up going to the hospital at halftime to get an X-ray. Without her, HHS still hung with the Gobblers for three quarters before a lopsided fourth lifted Broadway to a 43-29 victory Tuesday.
“Every warm-up, we just do a brief, two-minute defensive-slide drill, and Keyana and one of our kids, they weren’t even doing the drill – they were just, like, exchanging positions – and [a teammate] stepped on her [Whitley-Duncan’s] foot,” HHS coach Bill Bayer said.
“The trainer told me, ‘If it was an NFL game, she would be doubtful.’ She said maybe if it was the Super Bowl, she’d try to tape her up. …I have no idea [how serious the injury is]. I wouldn’t want to speculate.”
It seemed unlikely that Harrisonburg (5-4 overall, 1-3 in the Valley District) could win without Whitley-Duncan, who is her team’s best scorer and ball-handler. Broadway (10-2, 4-1) has lost only to undefeated teams this season: East Rockingham and Spotswood. A Blue Streaks team that had lost two district games by at least 22 points – with Whitley-Duncan on the floor – didn’t seem to pose much of a threat.
But at the end of the third quarter, Bayer’s group trailed by just two, 27-25. The Streaks made a 7-0 run to get to that point, and got BHS star forward Heather Cantrell in foul trouble to boot.
Cantrell, though, returned with three fouls to start the fourth, and scored the first three points of the period. That sparked an 18-2 run for the Gobblers, as the Streaks didn’t make a field goal in the fourth until a meaningless jumper just before the buzzer.
“Our bench really did pretty well, but when you throw Keyana out, we’re not very deep,” Bayer said. “…We just ran out of gas in the fourth quarter.”
Junior guard Sydney Knupp, who’s usually Robin to Whitley-Duncan’s Batman, scored 12 points to lead the Streaks. Freshman guard Kendyl Brooks, the daughter of James Madison women’s basketball coach Kenny Brooks, chipped in eight.
Cantrell and junior forward Brianna Zook each had 12 for the Gobblers, who, as Cantrell put it, “pretty much got our tails whipped” by BHS coach Bobby Mongold at halftime.
Cantrell said her teammates didn’t slack when they saw Whitley-Duncan out of the lineup.
“Gosh, I hope we’re not that naïve,” Mongold said.