NASHVILLE – When Karen Booker was hired as the sixth head coach in the history of the Trevecca Nazarene University women’s basketball program, three Williamson County players were the first to introduce themselves to the former Franklin great.
Page High School graduates Faith and Lili Wilken and former Nolensville star Grace Baird all met with their new coach this past June.
“I thought to myself, well, I got Faith and Grace and I just needed a little hope,” Booker recalled with a smile. “Lili said, ‘My middle name is Hope.’
"I guess that was a sign for us.”
All three are contributors for the Trojans with the Wilken sisters having started all 18 games for the new-look Trevecca program this season.
The Trojans improved to 12-6 overall and 8-3 in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference – good for third in the league of 13 – following Thursday’s 80-69 victory at home against Northwood. Trevecca also won a sixth consecutive game, the program’s longest streak since 2015, which was also the last time the Trojans finished with a winning record. They finished 5-22 last year.
“This year we have been able to show people that we aren’t some joke in this conference,” the junior Faith said. “We came into the preseason ranked 12th and now we’re third. I think that just says a lot for how hard we have worked and everything we have overcome to get here.”
Faith scored nine points and grabbed five rebounds Thursday. She knocked down a 3-pointer with 4:15 to play to give the Trojans a 67-55 cushion.
Lili, a freshman, scored nine of her 14 points in the second half and dished out five assists in the win.
After Northwood closed within 67-60, Lili sank two at the foul line with 3 minutes remaining. She added a strong drive to the bucket on the next Trevecca possession and sank two more at the line in the closing seconds to put the game on ice.
“I just try my best to help the team the best I can,” said Lili, who added a big 3-pointer to end the half on a pass from Faith. Trevecca had started in a 17-8 hole, but led 33-29 at the break.
Lili Wilken gets the ball back from sis Faith Wilken and drills the triple to end the first half. Trevecca trailed 17-8 after one but leads Northwood 33-29 at the break —> pic.twitter.com/mo4Gz1kmHB— Charles Pulliam (@cspulliam) January 20, 2023
The younger Wilken is third on the team in scoring, averaging 10.1 points, to go with 3.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.1 steals per game. Faith is averaging 7.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.3 steals.
Booker admitted she is amazed with the maturity the two former Patriots display. Booker, an all-state player at Franklin in 1983 who went on to earn All-American status at Vanderbilt in 1987 and later played in the WNBA, said the pair of former Page stars are big pieces to Trevecca’s success.
“I’m blessed to have the Wilken sisters,” she said. “They just handle everything with so much maturity. There’s a lot of toughness in those girls.”
Faith made an instant impact at Trevecca as freshman, but red-shirted after tearing her Anterior Cruciate Ligament in her knee three games into the season in 2019. The all-time leading scorer at Page worked back into playing shape before suffering another ACL tear the following summer.
She came back in the shortened COVID-19 season in 2020-21 averaging 14.2 points in the 12 games. Last year, another knee injury ended Faith’s season after just six games, but she's on the court and back in the starting lineup.
“We haven’t had the best record in the past, but we haven’t been able to get all the pieces together,” Faith said. “I think we are showing what we can be now … and to play with Lili, that just makes it more enjoyable.
“To have someone close to you and go through everything together, that’s just really special.”
Lili, who played as a freshman Faith’s senior year at Page, picked up where the pair left off in high school and guided Page to back-to-back state tournaments in 2021 and last March. The younger Wilken, longtime teammate McKenzie Cochran and current Page senior and Trevecca signee Braley Bushman, pushed the Patriots into the state semifinals for the first time in program history.
The freshman hasn’t missed a beat stepping into a big role in college and credits Faith for helping her show the way.
“She’s a great mentor,” Lili said. “She’s always looking out for me and if something isn’t going right, she lets me know. I love it and it’s a really good feeling to have her with me because we challenge one another.”
Booker loves the versatility of both from their clutch 3-point shooting to stellar defense.
Lili has taken on the role of point guard as needed, while Faith continues to have a nose for the ball and is third on the team in rebounding.
“They get the job done,” she said. “I just really appreciate their hard work ethic … it’s helping push this group because we’re a team that’s going to keep working hard and be disciplined.”
Junior Emma Palmer of Mt. Juliet sank all nine of her field goals and finished with 19 points to lead the Trojans Thursday, while classmate Keeley Carter of Macon County scored 16.
Lili has scored in double figures in eight games and has made at least one 3-pointer in 12 of 18 games, including a career-high four in a 65-60 win against Kentucky State on Dec. 31. Faith has reached double figures in scoring seven times and produced a double-double (13 points, 10 rebounds) in that same win on New Year’s Eve – the first in the string of six victories.
Lili said the Trojans still have more to prove, but Thursday’s win and the current win streak are a big step.
“I think we have some confidence,” Lili said. “Being third in the conference has given us some momentum to beat these teams. We’re as good as them and have the strength and the fight to play with them.”
“We all spread the ball around and everybody gets their chance,” Faith added. “I feel like we all look for one another and feed off each other and that’s led to our success so far.
“And to do this with a sibling on top of that, it’s even more enjoyable.”
Former WillCo stars – and siblings – also play on the men’s team at Trevecca. Seniors Elon and Jaden Smallwood and freshman Jake Mulder are all contributors for the Trojans.
All three are also Ravenwood graduates with Mulder coming off a senior campaign with the Raptors that included leading the team to its first Region 6-4A championship and sectional appearance.
The Trevecca men (1-15, 0-10 in G-MAC) let a six-point halftime lead slip away in a 62-60 setback against Northwood in Thursday’s night cap.
Both teams are back in action Saturday at home against Hillsdale with the women playing at 1 p.m. and the men at 3 p.m.
Trevecca women (12-6, 8-3 G-MAC) 80, Northwood (7-10, 4-6 G-MAC) 69
Northwood (69) – Mackenzie Todd 4-12 2-2 11, Hannah Schroeder 0-2 0-0 0, Maeve St. John 1-3 4-4 7, Maize Taylor 0-4 0-0 0, Ava DiMilia 6-11 2-4 14, Maddie Voelker 8-15 7-7 23, Adele Kemp 2-8 1-2 7, Ella Miller 2-5 0-0 4, McKenna Walker 1-4 0-0 3. Totals – 24-64 16-19 69.
Trevecca (80) – Emma Palmer 9-9 1-3 19, Lili Wilken 4-7 5-6 14, Faith Wilken 3-14 1-2 9, Bayleigh Carmichael 3-7 2-2 10, Keeley Carter 5-7 4-4 16, Grace Baird 0-1 0-0 0, Magdalena Dunai 0-0 2-2 2, Jayda Woods 1-3 1-2 3, Julie Luna 1-4 0-0 3, Kor Fornesa Liu 2-3 0-0 4. Totals – 28-55 16-21 80.
3-pointers – Northwood 5-21 (Kemp 2-5, St. John 1-2, Todd 1-4, Walker 1-4), Trevecca 8-21 (Carter 2-2, Carmichael 2-5, F. Wilkin 2-8, L. Wilkin 1-2, Luna 1-4). Rebounds – Northwood 27 (DiMilia 6 Voelker 4), Trevecca 41 (Palmer 8, Carter 7). Assists – Northwood 12 (Taylor 5), Trevecca 16 (Carter 7, L. Wilken 5). Steals – Northwood 7 (St. John 3, DiMilia 2), Trevecca 2 (Palmer, Woods). Blocks – Northwood 2 (DiMilia, Miller), Trevecca 3 (Palmer 2, Liu). Turnovers – Northwood 7, Trevecca 16. Total Fouls – Northwood 22, Trevecca 16. Fouled Out – None.