Coming off back-to-back road losses, Oregon State was struggling once again last Friday night against then-No. 18 Arizona State inside Gill Coliseum.

During a timeout, Maddie Washington stepped out of her element just a bit.

Frustrated by the recent outcomes, and accepting the challenge of coach Scott Rueck for more leaders to emerge, Washington, a 6-foot-1 sophomore, took control of the huddle.

Rueck stood by and waited for Washington to finish before he addressed the team.

The animated exchange was just what the Beavers needed as they were able to overcome a nine-point second-quarter deficit and rally for a 57-54 win over the Sun Devils.

“I wanted it, I wanted it so bad,” Washington said Wednesday afternoon, recalling her thoughts at the time. “I knew how hard we had worked and I knew that we weren’t at our highest potential so of course I had to say something and speak up.”

It was out of character for Washington.

“I would say in the beginning of the season I probably wouldn’t have said anything in the huddle,” she admitted.

Washington has also brought a spark off the bench the past few games, and showed the type of energy and passion she has for the game.

In the closing seconds of the third quarter, Washington had a lane to the basket. While she missed the layup, she took heed of what Rueck has always preached and that is to not compound a mistake with another one, so she stayed involved in the play.

The ball ended up back in her hands and Washington was able to coax her second shot to fall and get the Beavers within a bucket.

“Somehow it pops out to me and I’m like, all right, this is your second shot,” Washington said. “It just went in. When the ball went in and the buzzer rang, you just look at your teammates and everybody’s pumped. That feeling was amazing. I definitely want more of it.

“That play, that moment, is something that I will never forget.”

Washington has shown plenty of leadership this season. After playing sparingly last season as a freshman, Washington found herself in the starting lineup to open this season.

But after starting the first nine games, she was replaced by freshman Taya Corosdale.

Instead of pouting, Washington handled the transition and has continued to provide valuable minutes for the Beavers.

“Starting was nice but as a team aspect I think it was better for Taya to start,” Washington said. “But it didn’t really change anything as far as my minutes or how I contribute to the team.”

It’s actually worked out better in some ways for Washington.

“I kind of like it more just coming off the bench. It’s like you see everything. You see the first few minutes, you see how physical someone is going to be versus you’re stuck on the court first few minutes you have to figure it out on your own.”

Washington and Corosdale have been rooming together on the road — they both snore so the rest of the team decided they should be paired together — which could seem a bit awkward.

However, Washington has enjoyed getting to know Corosdale and the two have been able to talk about not just basketball, but about life off the court as well.

Washington’s smooth transition from starter to coming off the bench has not been lost on her teammates.

“It’s hard when somebody else comes and takes your spot in the starting lineup, but she’s been nothing but positive and encouraging to Taya,” sophomore Mikayla Pivec said. “She’s all for the team. Whatever’s best for the team she’s willing to do. She just brings that positive energy for us and is a really big asset for us.”

Washington knows she has room to grow on the court and wants to work on her midrange and perimeter game as well as her lateral quickness on defense so she can guard any position.

For now, she’s more than content to split time with Corosdale and do all she can to help the Beavers continue to grow and find success.

Rueck said he loves what Washington brings to the table and is just fine with her continuing to be a vocal leader.

“A quiet Maddie, I don’t want that,” he said. “Live loud, and on this team we need it and she’s bringing that to us.”

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Sports editor of the Albany Democrat-Herald and Corvallis Gazette-Times

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