She’s part scorer and part team spark plug. But the one thing that really makes Michele Boykin stand out is she’s 100 percent fearless.
The Bishop England guard broke her nose in late December in a holiday tournament game against Oakton High of Vienna, Va. Boykin applied intense pressure on defense and was on the receiving end of an accidental elbow to the nose. She fell to the court bloody and bruised.
Now, she’s back to 100 percent and plays with abandon. She’s not worried about getting hurt. It’s not unusual to see her hit the hardwood floor 10 times a game, diving after a loose ball or colliding with an opponent — or teammate.
“I’m back to normal,” said Boykin, who has helped Bishop England reach Saturday’s 2 p.m. Class AA state championship against Keenan at the Colonial Life Arena in Columbia. “When I broke my nose, the doctor told me I was out for the season. I actually cried after hearing that. I had to talk to the doctor and my parents and convince them to let me play.”
Bishop England coach Paul Runey is amazed by Boykin’s tenacity.
“She probably gets knocked down 20 times during practice,” Runey said. “Every day I tell her to wear her mask, to wear her knee pads. I think she wore her mask two weeks and hid it. When they practice, it is physical. They are going 100 miles per hour, giving 100 percent.”
Boykin, who missed nine games because of the surgery to repair her nose, is back to form. She always seems to make the big basket or come up with the big steal for the Bishops, who are 23-3 this season and 51-3 over the last two years.
In last weekend’s Lower State championship, Kingstree sliced the Bishops’ double-digit lead to six points. But Boykin hit a 3-point goal and came up with a steal on Kingstree’s next possession that led to two points to push the lead back to 11 in a 55-41 victory.
That was a snapshot of Boykin’s season. She leads the team with 16.5 points and 3.8 steals per game. She also leads the team with 3.8 assists. She’s increased her scoring, averaging 21.6 points over the last five games.
She had a big role in last season’s 28-0 record and state championship.
Last March, Boykin scored what turned out to be the winning points in the championship game against Columbia, a 44-41 victory. She scored with 1:08 left in the game to give the Bishops their first lead at 42-41.
She had 18 points, eight rebounds and a bloody nose against the Capitals in the title game.
Boykin had another clutch performance in a state semifinal against Lake City when she scored 25 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.
“I like playing in the big games,” Boykin said. “I play better when I’m nervous. I know that sounds weird, but it’s true. I like when people are counting on me, I just take my time, think about the shot and hope it goes in.”
Runey said every team needs a player who can spark the team.
“She’s our spark plug,” Runey said. “She gets us going. Obviously, we’re a different team without her. We had a good team without her, but our chances of winning are better when she’s out there.”
Follow Philip M. Bowman on Twitter: @PandCPhil