Alexa Brandt has learned one important thing.
Never again will she play a basketball game on Dec. 1.
The Mead senior missed two months of her junior season after she suffered a major concussion in a Dec. 1 game.
Last weekend, a year to the day later, she suffered an injured right knee. While she’s waiting for news on the degree of the injury, she’s hoping that this time it won’t cost her a huge chunk of her final season of high school girls basketball.
“The one thing I’ve learned is that every time you walk on the court, you have to treat the game like it’s the last time you’re going to get the chance to play,” she said. “You come to learn that playing is precious.”
Mead will miss the 5-foot-5 fireball.
“We will play 10 games before Christmas break,” coach Quantae Anderson said. “We played two games last weekend, we have three this week and three the week after that. Our first nine games are away from home.”
Anderson pointed out that his Panthers will have played Central Valley twice before the dawn of 2019. There is an urgency to these pre-Christmas break days, he said, when practice time comes in sparse doses.
“The girls would rather play than practice,” he said. “That’s always the case. It will be good to get to the break and have a few days of solid practice to work on some things.
“We’re growing. Each day we’re getting better. So far, we’ve been very inconsistent, but we’re going to get better.”
Brandt wants to say the same thing about her knee, because this season she finally feels back to more of her normal self on a basketball court.
A year ago, in a game against West Valley-Yakima, Brandt and a Ram guard each grabbed a loose ball.
“They called the jump ball, but when the whistle went up neither one wanted to let go,” Anderson said. “The other girl pulled back and swung, and Alexa fell and hit the back of her head.
“She was down. Our trainer and I ran out there, but she stayed down. After a while, she popped right up, but after she took a couple of steps she fell at halfcourt. That’s when we called for more medical attention and had them take a look.”
It was bad. The fact that she hit her head a second time when she fell at halfcourt complicated matters.
“That was my third concussion, and it was the worst one,” Brandt said. “Hitting my head a second time just made it worse. I actually had a seizure on the court and my eyes rolled back in my head. I spent the night in the hospital and I remember hearing the doctors telling my parents that it was bad and that I might want to give up playing basketball.”
Brandt is nothing of not a tough player, and getting back on the court was her priority.
“I came back the first of January and tried to do some running to start getting back into shape, but I collapsed again. I was going too fast.”
Some of the aftereffects started to disappear over the summer. Her reaction times were off when she first got back. Others, like her short-term memory are still, in a word, off.
“It sucks, but I can’t do anything about it,” she said.
Brandt hopes that, while she’s out of the lineup, some of her younger Panther teammates can gain some valuable playing time.
Mead has five seniors, she said, but after that it’s a young roster.
Two players, Daysha and Shalya Melendez, are transfers from St. George’s. At 5-10, they give the team a strong presence in the middle – a key addition in a Greater Spokane League where 6-footers abound.
“They are learning,” Anderson said. “There are times when they are a little lost out there, and other times when they look like they’ve been playing with us for three years.”
The challenge, he said, is to adapt to the pace of play at the Class 4A level after years playing Class 1B.
“With a B school, you may have one girl who is 5-10 or 6-feet,” Anderson said. “At this level you can see teams that are 5-10 across the board. You see multiple players who are 6-feet or taller.
“But the biggest difference is the pace of play.”
In the GSL, some of those 6-footers play guard and can drive to the basket at will.
That’s the situation that sidelined Brandt this time.
“I was going for the steal, and we got tangled up and our knees hit,” she said. “I knew something was wrong. I’m the type of player who doesn’t cry. If I cry, I’m hurt. I could just see that my knee was pointing the wrong way.
“On the way back to the locker room it hit me more emotionally. This is my senior year. I don’t want to be on the sidelines for it.”
The medical diagnosis is, so far, incomplete.
“We’ve had it X-rayed,” she said. “They think there’s a chance that I tore my meniscus, and I may need to have an MRI to check that out. Hopefully it’s just a sprain, and I can get back soon.
“That’s the one thing I know. I can get back. This motivates me to get back.”
Brandt laughs at the coincidental timing of the injuries and says she’s already alerted her coaches at Pacific, where she will play next year, that she never again wants to play on Dec. 1.
“I’m excited to get there,” she said of her college choice. “I think the team is getting better, and I want to be a part of it.”
Subscribe to The Spokesman-Review’s sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.