The 2014-15 girls basketball season began normally for Briana Holder, the starting shooting guard for East Wake. She was playing well, and her team entered winter break with a 5-3 record.
“She was probably my best defensive player,” said Warriors coach Toni Dupree. “She was one of the mature ones on the team that the girls looked up to.”
But in practices prior to a holiday tournament, Holder began to feel numbness in parts of her body – a feeling she had felt occasionally as far back as freshman year but had never identified a cause. Holder played in the tournament, but the issue got progressively worse and led her to seek a doctor’s opinion.
In early January, the bombshell dropped: a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, a disease in which one’s immune system attacks nerve coverings and one for which a cure has yet to be discovered.
“At first, I was petrified,” Holder said. “But I knew everything was going to be alright, and then I didn’t have (any) more worries.”
Treatment slowly helped the symptoms fade in the background and Holder was able to return to basketball by February.
On her senior night on Feb. 10, she scored six points and recorded one steal to help East Wake rout Harnett Central 67-19 and finish the regular season with a 17-6 record. She remained in the healthy lineup all the way through the Warriors’ eventual exit in the second round of the 4A state playoffs.
By now, the realities of life with MS are familiar – but not hindering – to Holder.
On Tuesday, she graduated high school with a GPA over 4.0. And in August, she will take her first classes at UNC-Chapel Hill, where she was accepted earlier this spring.
“I hope to keep studying hard and eventually be the person that I always wanted to be,” she said. “As long as I keep taking my medicine, (MS) shouldn’t change anything drastically.”
She considers her time on the East Wake team as a great experience, one that helped her develop close bonds with her teammates and coach and grow stronger as a person. Dupree describes Holder as a motivated, hard-working leader.
But ultimately, the medical challenge she faced and her perseverance through and beyond it – both on the court and in the classroom – most shaped Holder’s senior year at East Wake.
“I’m proud that I didn’t let this situation stop me,” she said. “I kept excelling in school and doing what I’m supposed to and it paid off.”