Choose your adjective to describe 13-year-old Grace Miller. Tough, gutsy, gritty. Ornery is another that comes to her family’s mind. Three years ago, upon finding out that the 254-student Williamsfield School District didn’t offer girls basketball at the middle or high school levels, Miller insisted on playing with the boys and hasn’t stopped since. That’s even after she lost her left eye in a November BB gun accident, in which a dropped gun discharged a BB into her eye.

Choose your adjective to describe 13-year-old Grace Miller.

Tough, gutsy, gritty. Ornery is another that comes to her family’s mind.

Three years ago, upon finding out that the 254-student Williamsfield School District didn’t offer girls basketball at the middle or high school levels, Miller insisted on playing with the boys and hasn’t stopped since. That’s even after she lost her left eye in a November BB gun accident, in which a dropped gun discharged a BB into her eye.

“I like sports and I just go at them because I love them,” said Grace, who got a glass eye in December. “My injury didn’t change that.”

For family and friends, her toughness manifested at an early age.

“She’s always just been gutsy,” said her grandmother Florann.

Grace’s father Robert tells of the time his father collapsed and a 5-year-old Grace didn’t miss a beat in helping the Army veteran and EMT resuscitate him.

“I never pulled any punches or sugar-coated anything when I was going away,” said Robert, who spent 18 years in the Army as an airborne ranger, six of those years in active combat zones. “I’d tell her there was a possibility I wasn’t coming back. She’s had to accept things as they come and make the best of things and work her way through it.”

Losing her eye could have killed her love of sports or school, but true to her father’s statement, Grace learned to adjust.

After doctors recommended she stay out of school at least two weeks, Grace returned to the classroom two days after the accident with an empty left eye socket.

“I didn’t want to miss anything,” she said.

She also got right back on the court, armed with protective goggles. She hopes to continue her career next year on the boys high school team.

And, worried about her ability to hit curves once softball season rolls around, the righty already is learning how to bat left-handed so her good eye can face the pitcher.

In corrective lenses before the accident, Grace’s lost eye was the one with weakened vision.

“She now sees 20/20 out of her right, and has only lost 20 percent of her peripheral vision,” Robert said.

Father and daughter rode together in the back of an ambulance, where Grace didn’t complain.

“They said they’d never seen anyone with such an injury so calm,” said Robert, who in many years as a Galesburg Hospitals Ambulance Service emergency medical technician hadn’t either.

Since the injury, headaches on the left side of her head are the only other physical effect of the injury; Grace has taken only three Tylenol, preferring to tough it out.

The psychological side of such an injury could have been another story, but walking around eyeless for a few weeks didn’t even seem bother Grace, family and friends say.

Occasionally she’ll still remove the eye.

“I like grossing people out with it,” she said. These antics, and her determination, cause her father to call her “ornery.”

True to that, and like any competitor, Miller isn’t above a little friendly trash-talking.

Showing the pluck that’s earned her the nickname “grizzle” from teammates, Grace said she hopes to one day tell an opponent, “You just got beat by a girl, and not just that, a one-eyed girl.”

On Thursday, she got the opportunity to brag after scoring her first basket since losing her eye in the Billtown win. After her lay-up, the crowd — especially large for a middle school game — erupted in cheers.

The rest of the eighth-grade Bombers — known to cheer Grace on and give her extra opportunities to shoot when the team has a bigger lead — joined in.

“It’s just that close-knit of a school and town,” Robert said of the support the family’s received in the community.

Chris Mouzakitis can be reached at cmouzakitis@register-mail.com.