In December, the West Ashley girls basketball team was rolling along as one of the top ranked teams in the state at 6-0 when they went into Fort Dorchester. It was a game that would impact the rest of their season.
DeKeiya Cohen, one of the top ranked players in the country, had been leading the Wildcats throughout the early part of the season. But that night, she injured the ACL in her right knee during that game and needed surgery.
No doubt a tough situation for her and her team.The Wildcats began the year as state title contender.
"I was really sad" Cohen said. "I had so many goals for my team and for me and I was really upset."
It was only a partial ACL tear. So at first Cohen, her coaches, and family thought a brace might work. She could play again this season. After more discussion, though, they all realized her future in this game was more important.
"There was a consensus going on" West Ashley Head Coach Maria Williams said "Have the surgery without risking more injury to any other parts or her knee or her legs"
The decision cut short what supposed to be Cohen's best year of her basketball career.
Back in November, the senior signed with Baylor. Becoming the first Division one product in the history of the program.
Then the player nicknamed smiley was going to help lead the Wildcats to their first ever state title. They were ranked first in the state to start the year and cruised through their first seven games. But when Cohen got hurt, it seemed like her hopes and dreams, along with her teammates, for this season, were crushed.
"that was like a dagger" Williams said. "We knew that for DeKeiya Cohen not having basketball, that's like oil and water. It doesn't mix. When you talk to her, it's basketball...that's her life. And to see that part of her be taken away, it's been tough."
"I think I'm still in a mourning process" Cohen said. "We have games and I sit on the sidelines and I walk around and feel like I'm missing out."
Now Cohen is limited to the sidelines. A major mental and emotional adjustment for her.
Going from the leader on the court to essentially an assistant coach.
"The least I can do is be there supporting them, cheering them on. Telling them things I see on the sidelines to help them to be better on the court" Cohen said.
"It's been positive because the girls have been receptive of it. And I think it's kinda boost them a little bit to know that Smiley's still there with us." Williams said.
However Cohen's injury is providing motivation for the rest of her team to still accomplish the goal they had at the beginning of the year.
"We can do it we just gotta put our mind to it. Everybody's just got to be on the same page and work with it even though she's out" said teammate Jhanice Stokes.
"Smiley was a big impact to our game" said Jue McLemore. "she brought that fire and we picked that up from her. Now we realize we have to bring our own fire."
"Some people, they score more, rebound more. They step up. That's all I can ask for" Cohen said.
Of course Cohen's story is not over. She is going to be a part of one of the best women's basketball program's in the nation next school year. And maybe she will become a star at Baylor. And the story isn't over for this year's group of Wildcats, either. There is talent left on this team but winning the region and state titles will be much more difficult with Cohen on the sidelines and not on the court.