Gateway: Sports

‘She has that next-level factor.’ Gig Harbor’s Maxwell completes stellar four-year career

Maxwell named The News Tribune’s All-Area Player of the Year

Gig Harbor's Brynna Maxwell is The News Tribune's 2019 All-Area Player of the Year.
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Gig Harbor's Brynna Maxwell is The News Tribune's 2019 All-Area Player of the Year.

One of Brynna Maxwell’s earliest memories at Gig Harbor High School was during the summer after her eighth grade year, playing for the Tides basketball team in a summer league game.

Her coach, Megan Murray, wanted her to focus on getting to the hoop. At the time, Maxwell wasn’t too keen on the idea.

“I was crying because I didn’t know how to do anything but shoot,” she said.

So when Maxwell pulled up for a 3-pointer on a fast break, Murray was not amused.

“I just remember her staring me down,” Maxwell said.

As much as Murray wanted to help Maxwell round out her game, and work on being more aggressive in getting to the rim, the one thing she couldn’t deny was Maxwell’s natural ability to score.

“She could shoot,” Murray said. “That was obviously a huge strength for her.”

Eventually, Maxwell learned to make shots of all kinds. She became the Tides’ all-time leading scorer, with 1,968 career points, and owns most of the program’s records — including points in a season (671 in 2019) and a single-game (48 on Feb. 13 against Hudson’s Bay).

Her senior year was her most prolific, and is why she was selected The News Tribune’s All-Area girls basketball player of the year.

She averaged 26.8 points per game, shot 50 percent from the field — including 43 percent from 3-point range — and made 91 percent of her free throws. She also averaged 9 rebounds, 3.9 steals and 3 assists per game.

Maxwell put pressure on herself to take her game to the next level last season as a junior.

“I just focused on attacking all the time, not taking plays off on defense or offense,” Maxwell said. “If I can score, I was going to try to score every time down the court to help my team.”

Murray recognized Maxwell’s potential from that summer league season. But, Maxwell really started to blossom toward the end of her sophomore year.

“At that point, you knew she was on course to really make a name for herself at a high level and do some record breaking,” Murray said.

“The thing I knew about Brynna right off the bat, is that she’s so competitive. She just hated to lose. She was going to do what it took to leave everything out on the floor.”

Over the years, Murray had to kick Maxwell out of the gym and send her home on more than one occasion. Even after the doors were shut, Maxwell would somehow sneak back in.

“We had to have some pinky promises, just to make sure she would go home and get some rest,” Murray said. “She’s got an unbelievable work ethic about her, has such a passion to get better at the little things.

“A lot of kids these days bypass the fine detail. ... She’s a kid that’s going to go in the gym and get a certain amount of shots up, but then she focuses on the footwork, ball handling — the little things. Just a true passion for the game. She wants to get better and be able to compete at the highest level possible.”

Maxwell, who’s headed to Utah on a basketball scholarship, also leaves Gig Harbor with a ring.

The Tides won the Class 3A state title in 2018, and Maxwell was named the 3A state player of the year. During that tournament, she established modern-era state records for total points (83) and scoring average (27.7), and tied the mark for field goals made (28).

In the championship game against Garfield, she scored 31 points.

Murray said the title game was just one of several examples of Maxwell’s unique ability to be at her best at the most crucial time.

“You don’t find tons of kids willing to want to take the last shot, take on the pressure of being able to do that,” Murray said. “She just had so much confidence in her own game, and knew that her teammates and coaches did as well. It’s just more of the competitive edge that she has.”

Peninsula coach Mike Schick faced Maxwell three times this year in rivalry games. He said her ability to score in a variety of ways, and her intense competitiveness, makes Maxwell a next-level player.

“You look up and it’s already almost at the hoop,” Schick said. “A lot of kids don’t look to shoot until they get to the top of their jump shot. And defenders and taught to go up with them.

“She’s the one you have to game-plan the most for. She can get her shot off at any given time, anywhere on the court. As a coaching staff, we were more surprised when she missed, than when she made it. Just her size, length, IQ — it’s up there with the best of them.”

The first time Peninsula played Gig Harbor this season, Schick and the Peninsula coaching staff went with a traditional man-to-man defense, hoping to slow Maxwell down. She ended up with 35 points, including the game-winner late in the fourth quarter.

So the next two meetings Schick went with a different approach.

“Every time she had the ball, we just sent two girls at her to get the ball out of her hands,” Schick said. “From my standpoint, it was better to take our chances playing four-on-three, rather than five-on-five.

“She has that next-level factor about her. She wants those pressure shots. The stage is never too big for her.”

Murray said Maxwell’s shot release is what separates her from most players.

“She’s so good and so quick with being able to get her shot off anywhere on the floor,” she said. “And she has added some diversity to her game, can go right and go left and handle the ball. Even around the basket, flip up left-handed floaters, that kind of stuff.

“At the next level, the consistency of her shooting and her quick release will be the biggest thing she offers.”

Jon Manley covers high school sports for The Peninsula Gateway and The News Tribune. A McClatchy President’s Award winner, Manley has covered the Gig Harbor sports scene since 2013. Born and raised in Tacoma.