COLUMBIA — They were the diabolical duo, queens of the steal, gurus of the guards. They were “one of the best tandems in the league,” according to Columbia College women's basketball coach Mike Davis.
“It’s hard to talk about one without talking about the other,” Davis said.
But since a bittersweet night early this season in November, things haven't been the same for senior guards Whitney Davis and Whitney Widaman.
“We were down in Lyon, Ark., for our game against Lyon College,” said Davis, who is Whitney Davis' father. “It was just on a fast break, a hustle play. Whitney was going for a block and she just landed wrong on it. Everybody knew it was torn.”
The Cougars won 61-57, but Whitney Davis suffered a torn ACL and meniscus in her right knee. The injury kept Whitney Davis out only two games, but she was hobbled and her role on the team changed.
“She’s basically been playing on one leg,” Mike Davis said.
Although the Cougars have won 28 of 31 games, the team still has felt a void.
“It was completely devastating,” Widaman said. “She was our go-to point guard."
But Whitney Davis has slowly seen more and more playing time after going through multiple physical and mental battles.
“It used to be me and (Widaman) running the show, but I had to take a back seat,” Whitney Davis said. “It was so stressful.
“It wore down on me mentally because I couldn't contribute to the team as much as I wanted to. I used to get jealous of the girls because they could run around and play as much as they wanted and I couldn’t.”
Mike Davis watched his daughter fight those battles.
“It was horrible to see as a dad,” he said. “But I was still the coach. I had to be there as a coach for the team, and keep them working hard.”
But working with a physical therapist and her father after practice has strengthened Whitney Davis’ knee enough to hang with the rest of the team, even after re-tearing her meniscus during practice in January.
“It feels so much better now,” she said. “It’s not at full strength. I can’t do the things I want to do. If I go more than 75 percent, it just slips out and there’s nothing I can do. But just to get on the court helps me so much mentally. My knee feels better even if it isn’t better.”
Whitney Davis may be missing the quickness and strength she once had, but she’s providing the team with as much spark as she can. Davis played her best game since her injury against William Woods, hitting two 3-pointers and finishing with eight points and a steal.
“That was one of those games where I really wanted to come out and step up for my team,” Davis said. “It was really sore after that, though.”
Whitney Davis' return has certainly had an impact on Widaman, who had to work overtime at guard when Davis couldn't go much more than 15 minutes a game.
"It was just so different. I played the two (guard) and she’d play the one, but then I started playing a little of both. The whole team had to get used to the changes,” Widaman said.
Whitney Davis and Widaman rank as two of the top defensive guards the Cougars' program has put on the court, but Widaman took over the record books this season with Whitney Davis unable to play to her fullest.
Before her injury, Whitney Davis held the school records for most steals in a game with nine and most steals in a season with 93, and she was second on the school's list for career steals at 240, 64 behind Tiffany Foote.
“She would have broken the record if her knee didn’t go out,” Widaman said earlier this year.
But Whitney Davis’ season steals record was broken when Widaman swiped her 94th in the Cougars’ 69-66 loss to William Woods on Saturday. Widaman then broke the school’s career steals record Wednesday against Park in the American Midwest Conference quarterfinals.
“We were quick, we were strong, we were scrappy,” Widaman said of the guards' tactics. "It’s really intimidating for the other team.”
Now, heading into its AMC tournament semifinal matchup Friday against Williams Baptist (Ark.), Columbia College, the No. 2 seed, has its ‘intimidating’ tandem closer to its original form.
“It’s different now,” Widaman said. “To have everyone contributing in (Whitney Davis’) absence, it’s really helped us grow as a team. We’ve just had to make adjustments.”
And those adjustments are bad news for anybody in the Cougars’ way.
“I have no doubt that we can be the best team,” Widaman said. “If we’re on the same page, there’s no team out there better than us.”