Toledo High School Senior Casse Rice shoots a free throw during the early part of the season.
On the edge of a precipice sits the Toledo High School (THS) girls basketball team. It is a group of very experienced ball players, and this was supposed to be the year they would shine.
Many thought that a move into the 2B Central with smaller schools would allow them more success, instead it is a new challenge every night.
"Dropping to 2B I think was a good change for us," said THS Senior Casse Rice. "This year we made a fresh start, so that includes new teams and new places to go. It is definitely to our advantage. We are so much better than we realize; Than anyone realizes and we can compete with every single one of these teams. Coming down to 2B has given us much better opportunities."
In the meantime, the grind of a long season is taking a toll on Rice.
"I have always had problems with my ankles and my right one has always given me a lot of problems," said Rice.
Playing basketball was her mission and the option to not play hoops was well, not an option.
I dealt with it but finally it got so bad that I didn't have a choice to get it fixed or not," she continued. "So I had surgery."
Fast forward to this season and the injury still lingers.
"I ended up twisting it a few times here and there during the season and have never gave it the time to heal," said Rice.
She has sat out an occasional game here and there to rest it.
"They decided it would be best for me to sit out for a bit so that I could be ready for some big games we need coming up," she said.
Last week is the last two games of a long and distinguished career of high school basketball for Rice who is the leading scorer for her team and plays in tandem with her twin sister Chaselin Rice.
"It's my last year and basketball means so much to me," reflects Casse Rice. "Sitting on the bench just watching, knowing you can't go in, is true torture. So I tape it, brace it, suck it up and play my game."
With basketball and her high school career coming to a close, Casse Rice is thinking ahead to her post high school choices.
"I want to specialize in drug and alcohol abuse counseling so that I can help people get their acts together and clean up their lives," explains Casse Rice. "I've always loved helping people and I have strong opinions about drugs and alcohol and I just want to see people do better for themselves."
The education is not going to happen locally either.
"I plan to move to Spokane in August to study addiction counseling at Spokane Falls (Community College) for two years," she said.
Before she departs, there is some reflection that Casse Rice wants to do. First and foremost, there is the relationship with her twin sister which could go either way. In the case of the Rice sisters it is clear that they are nearly inseparable.
"Playing with my sister all these years has been amazing," explains Casse Rice. "It's all I've ever known so I really can't imagine it any other way. When there's a time we are separated, like not at practice together or not working on things together or I'm not playing with her it is so weird.
"I think because we started playing together at such a young age it is something that brought us even closer together. It's something we both love."
Family is huge for Rice. While her sister is a major impact on her and the THS basketball team, the rest of her family typically claims a corner of the Murdock Gymnasium.
"My parents have truly been the best supporters. I honestly couldn't ask for better parents. They are there for every game no matter what," described the senior. "There is a group of couples, the Hedgers, the Shannons, the Adam's and Keith Kammerzel (who films every game). They are so dedicated to coming and supporting every game. It's honestly the most amazing feeling having such awesome people there for you."
In the end, there is one more piece of reflection for Rice. She has a difficult time thinking about not playing for THS Head Basketball Coach J.B. Ewers.
"He was my kindergarten teacher and has been a great coach," reflects Casse Rice. "It's definitely going to be different not playing for him anymore."