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Belle Williamson-Crow Creek

Belle Fourche senior Mandee Williamson, left, drives against a Crow Creek player in the Class A girls' state basketball tournament in Watertown. Williamson, a Northern State recruit, was named to the all-state third team.

WATERTOWN | The night before Belle Fourche’s consolation semifinal Saturday against Crow Creek, Mandee Williamson couldn’t sleep.

It wasn’t just typical nerves that inhabit all players the night before a state tournament game, Williamson was weighing heavy options.

Should she try to play on a leg she had hyper-extended during the game that day against Madison? Or should she call it a career, avoiding making the injury worse?

“I thought about it all Thursday after our game and I kept on telling myself 'oh I feel it getting better,’” she said. “All (Thursday) night I thought about it too. Laying in bed I thought ‘my knee is going to be better,’ that’s just what I had to think.”

Going back to the injury, in her mind, over and over again couldn’t have been easy. It happened under the basket and Williamson immediately went down after landing on the foot of a Madison player.

That was it, she thought. Her high school basketball career was over.

"I felt like I let my teammates down with not being able to go back in," she said. 

As the team’s leading rebounder and scorer, losing her did hurt the Broncs against Madison, as they fell to the Bulldogs 56-42. But after the loss, Belle Fourche coach Bill Burr said he wanted the Broncs to go as far as possible in the state tournament.

Williamson was going to be a big part of that, but only if she was feeling up to it. The morning after the injury, she still wasn’t sure.

She had to get some advice from some people she trusted.

"Going to breakfast, I didn’t limp or anything," Williamson said. "I went to talk to my trainer and she had me do some running and cutting and I called my dad. I said ‘dad, just help me out here,' and he said, ‘I think you have the confidence to do it.’

"That really helped. I just said I’m doing it, I’ll be OK. I trust in God and I believe he’ll keep me safe.”

She was more than safe during Friday’s game. Williamson and Kortni Grubb (who also was injured during the Madison game) started the game on the bench, but when they came in, any concerns about Williamson’s injury quickly went away.

The ball went inside to Williamson, and she finished around the rim as she had never been injured. Still, she admitted that her mind wasn’t cleared of worry right away.

“I wanted to make sure it wasn’t just adrenaline, but it felt good the whole game,” she said. “I kind of tweaked it during the game, but it was fine. It just kind of stung for a little bit.”

When a member of Crow Creek made contact with her knee in the second half, she admitted the fear came back. She had already been through one debilitating injury that weekend, and she wasn’t sure if she could handle another one.

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The crises was avoided, and Williamson continued to be a force down low.

In 21 minutes she scored a game-high 24 points and grabbed eight rebounds. The Broncs moved into the fifth-place game with a 79-53 win, and they would face Aberdeen Roncalli.

Williamson would then go on to score 14 points in the 42-30 loss to Aberdeen Roncalli Saturday in the game for fifth place.

The final result didn’t come before another scary moment involving one of Williamson’s other knees. With about four minutes remaining in the game, and the result starting to become more clear, Williamson went down holding her other knee. Everyone feared the worst.

“That time I must have hit someone with the knee and it was at the top, so I thought I might have done the same thing,” she said. “I was scared about that because I didn’t want to do that to my other knee, but when the trainer said I should be good to go, I said ‘let’s go,’ it kind of gave me adrenaline.”

The senior will play basketball at Northern State University next season, and Williamson said she is excited about the opportunity to continue playing basketball at the next level. Knowing what's in store next fall also made the decision to test her knee a little more difficult.

Still, she said she had no regrets.

“I think I proved something to myself, that I showed I wasn’t going to quit on my knee. It was my last game and I wanted to finish it out,” she said. 

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Sports Editor

Sports reporter for the Rapid City Journal.