If it feels like Gig Harbor High School girls basketball stars Maddie Willett and Brynna Maxwell have been around forever, it’s because they have been.
Willett, a senior, and Maxwell, a junior, both made the varsity team as freshmen.
Even as underclassmen, it was clear they were some of the team’s best players. Now, they’re both upperclassmen and back for one final go-round together.
“It’s crazy,” Willett said. “It’s hard to believe that it’s the end. I’ll still watch (Maxwell) play in college, and probably will get to see some of her games next year. It’s not the end of a friendship, just the end of playing basketball together.”
It hasn’t just been the high school days. Willett and Maxwell have been playing basketball together since they were in fifth and fourth grade, respectively.
“We played on the same club before I went to a different one,” Willett said. “When she came to the high school, it wasn’t anything new for me. It was cool to have that chemistry already.”
So what was Maxwell like as a fourth-grader?
“Basically, the same as she is now,” Willett said. “She was a shooter, really passionate about the game. She loves basketball.”
The fact it’s their last go-around together adds a sense of urgency to this season. Gig Harbor has improved each of coach Megan Murray’s four years at the helm. Last year, the Tides made the Class 3A state tournament at the Tacoma Dome, but quickly flamed out.
Now, the team is looking to take the next step, once again. Willett and Maxwell will be the focal point. Willett averaged 15 points and seven rebounds per game last year, while Maxwell averaged 17.4 points, eight rebounds and a shade under three assists a season ago.
This last year, I’ve seen some much growth and maturity in both of them. Going from being young to having another year under their belts to being upperclassmen, I also think there’s a mental mindset with that. They can own their talents a little bit more and know that they’re a big asset to the team.
Megan Murray, Gig Harbor coach
“This last year, I’ve seen some much growth and maturity in both of them,” Murray said. “Going from being young to having another year under their belts to being upperclassmen, I also think there’s a mental mindset with that. They can own their talents a little bit more and know that they’re a big asset to the team.”
There hasn’t been any tension sharing the spotlight for three years. Both Willett and Maxwell just want to win.
“It doesn’t matter who scores,” Maxwell said. “If we get the win, it’s good. Everyone is happy for everyone if they score. It’s a team sport.”
Life without Willett? That’ll be odd, Maxwell admitted.
“It’s going to be over before I know it,” Maxwell said. “I’m blessed to have her in my life. After this year, I don’t know what’s going to happen. There’s going to be a huge gap to fill on this team after this year.”
Gig Harbor (2-0) has its sights set on the Tacoma Dome once again.
“There’s definitely some motivation,” Maxwell said. “All four years, we’ve done better than the year before. Last year, we lost our first game in the dome. This year, our goal is to try to get as far as we can in the dome and see what happens. That’s the ultimate goal.”
For Murray, Willett’s graduation will mark the end of an era. Willett has been on Murray’s team all four years Murray has been the coach.
“It’s bittersweet, just for the fact that Maddie will be my first graduate for the four years that I’ve been here,” Murray said. “It’s awesome to have those two, as much as they contribute on the floor. They complement each other. We’ll all ride it out as long as we possibly can.”
For Willett, she’s soaking it all up in her final season for the Tides.
“It’s crazy just thinking about, it feels like a very short amount of time,” she said. “Three years ago, I came here. It’s crazy how fasts it goes and how much fun you have along the way, how much you learn.”