Trinity Academy senior Kristin Miller had surgery before the basketball season to increase the blood flow to her legs, and though she returned at the end of January, she plays in constant, extreme pain.
Coach Brett Gunderson usually keeps Miller in for two-minute bursts because that’s about all she can tolerate.
On Saturday night, though, in Class 4A-II sub-state final, Miller played the entire fourth quarter.
“I just love the game, and I love my teammates,” Miller said. “I just wanted (to get to state) so bad. I just know how hard we worked for it.”
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Miller gutted out the game and helped Trinity (14-8) advance to its first girls basketball tournament. Trinity will play Frontenac (20-2) at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Hartman Arena.
“Kristin’s the toughest person I know,” said junior Shiloh Miller, who is not related to Kristin Miller. “I respect her so much. Having her on the team, having her lead, has been really key for us.”
Due to a lack of blood flow, Kristin Miller’s legs get weak and tired, and the color of her legs would change to purple and blue. The surgery — popliteal entrapment syndrome release — which she said basically released her muscles, was the third surgery she has had since her sophomore year.
Her return this season was a seamless addition to a balanced squad.
There’s nothing flashy about Trinity. Take Saturday’s win over Parsons — Shiloh Miller scored a team-high 10 points, while Kaleigh Schrag had eight. Seven other players scored between two and five points.
“It’s a whole team thing,” Miller said.
“It doesn’t matter,” Gunderson said. “They’re unselfish. Whatever’s good for the team is good for them.”
Such unselfishness is also key on defense because Trinity’s tallest players are 5-foot-7. So the Knights pride themselves on a man defense, using their quickness to swarm around opponents and speed them up.
“Our defense is crazy and in your face,” Kristin Miller said.
The first statistics Gunderson looks at after each game? Deflections and 50-50 balls.
“We want deflections, they’ll lead to a loose ball and we will dive and get it and toss it up the floor and go,” Gunderson said. “That’s been our best offense.”
And it’s every player. Kristin Miller, Shiloh Miller, Schrag, Whitney Guetersloh, Madison Clinton, Caroline Zielke, Ashley West, Micala Hollinger and the list goes on.
Trinity’s attitude of never stopping, never giving up starts in practice. Gunderson gives a white shirt, signifying starters, to the players who work the hardest.
It’s not about skill, it’s about effort.
“It makes it a competition in practice,” Shiloh Miller said. “It helps us work harder. If you go hard in a drill, if you do something even more outstanding or anything that is working hard, you get the shirt.”
But Gunderson said the Knights refuse to ever take the white shirt from Kristin Miller.
“She deserves it more than anybody,” Shiloh Miller said. “She’s battled from Day 1, through it all. She just deserves it so much.”