In Blaine’s 54-38 district win over Shorecrest, Mikayla Deming got to show why coaches around the league speak so highly of the lengthy senior.
Shorecrest had an easy fastbreak and everyone had given up on the play, except Deming, who tracked down the Scots’ player and blocked the easy layup.
“That was the defining moment of the game, maybe even her high school career,” Borderites coach Ryan Pike said in a phone interview. “Things may not go well but she keeps trying hard and perseveres through it.”
Deming hasn’t been the star of the Borderites — she’s part of the same senior class that Mandy Hayes, Breanna Chau and Taylor V’Dovec are in — but she’s carved out a significant role on a Blaine team headed to the Class 2A State Tournament, where the Borderites will take on White River on Saturday, Feb. 28, at Puyallup High School in a regional round game.
It’s never been easy for the 5-foot-11 forward who can play inside or outside. After an eighth-grade year where she got to play alongside Hayes, Chau and V’Dovec, Deming didn’t make the varsity team her freshman season.
Meanwhile, that trio was leading the Borderites to a state tournament.
“It was hard to watch the same people in my grade have such big roles on the team and I not have as big of a role,” Deming said in a phone interview.
As a result, Deming lost her confidence, said Pike, who coached Deming in eighth grade and then took over the varsity high school team in Deming’s sophomore season.
It wasn’t until her senior season that Deming fully gained her confidence back.
Already taking on a larger role with Alexis McElwain gone from the post after graduating, Deming’s responsibilities grew after V’Dovec broke her toe.
As one of the few players left that could play inside, Deming had to step up. After a couple strong games early in the season, her confidence “went through the roof,” Pike said.
“Her role was a lot bigger than she’s used to, probably a lot bigger than she expected,” Pike said. “But she stepped in there and has done a fantastic job of doing that.”
Deming’s consistency has been extremely important for the Borderites.
As a role player on a team with three big names, she doesn’t get a lot of touches but she understands her role and is comfortable in getting six points and six rebounds every game. She’s averaging 6.1 points per game, with a season-high of 12 against Anacortes on Jan. 15.
“She’s long and lengthy. ... She’s one of those senior players you have that knows the system, knows what’s expected,” Pike said. “That’s probably the biggest thing. You know what you’re going to get out of her.”
And Deming doesn’t mind not being the star. She has accepted the position and her teammates have embraced her.
“I think we all work together. Everyone contributes the way they are supposed to contribute,” Deming said. “Sometimes it’s challenging but I know my role on the team and we all kind of click together.”
It’s that team chemistry that kept Deming going when she didn’t make varsity or didn’t get as much court time.
Deming highlighted McElwain as someone who always stayed positive and helped keep her motivation even if the occasional thought of quitting passed through Deming’s mind.
And the Borderites are glad she stuck with it, because now, Deming is the perfect complementary player on a state-bound team.
“She’s a smart girl. She has a unique mixture of length and speed. You don’t always see that a lot,” Pike said. “She has long arms and long legs and she’s quick with them.”
But what may be most valuable to the Borderites is the lessons she can pass on to the younger girls. After going through not making varsity and sitting on the bench and being a role player, Deming has plenty of wisdom for the underclassmen to pick up on.
“I think it’s really hard for them (role players),” Pike said. “The biggest thing of a role player is knowing your name might not be in the paper, you might not be highlighted but you have to go out and do your job.”
Passing on advice, though, comes second right now to winning a regional game on Saturday in what could be Deming’s final game with the Borderites.
“Just play 110 percent and give it your all,” Deming said of the team’s mentality. “This could be the last time we will all be playing together. We want to go out with a bang.”