Six minutes into Thursday morning’s Yule Tide Classic-opener between Holly Pond’s and Walker’s girls basketball teams, the Broncos’ attention shifted from beating the Vikings to the well-being of one of their teammates.
Holly Pond wound up walloping Walker 52-22 to advance to the semifinals, but all the Broncos could think about after their fifth straight victory was an upsetting injury suffered by senior Lexy Malone late in the first quarter.
Nearly one year to the day after tearing her left ACL, the 5-foot-10 forward tore the same ligament, as well as the MCL, in her right knee versus the Vikings, landing awkwardly on the injured leg after grabbing a rebound and being fouled on the putback attempt. Malone immediately crumpled to the floor and yelled out in pain, telling coach Scott Adams: “I did it again. I did it again.”
Malone was eventually helped off the court by her coach and local athletic trainer Scott Lochridge. She was not able to put any weight on her right leg.
“I’m not feeling bad for our team or for me,” Adams said after the ballgame. “I feel bad for her because I know how bad she’s hurting. She’s just devastated. It’s hard to understand when you’ve gone through one like that and you had to fight so hard to get back on the floor.”
Taylor Terry took Malone’s place at the free-throw line following the incident and sank both shots to give Holly Pond a 12-2 advantage. She later drained two 3-pointers and fought hard inside the paint en route to a game-high 14 points, but Terry’s thoughts were never far from her fallen teammate and friend.
“It was very devastating because we’ve seen her work her butt off to get back to where she is,” the senior said of Malone. “It’s just heartbreaking for all of us, for her.”
With a 25-11 cushion at halftime, Adams didn’t make his girls go straight to the locker room like they would in almost any other situation. Instead, he allowed them to spend much of the break in the trainer’s room with Malone, where many tears were shed and prayers were offered.
“They love each other,”” Adams said while tears welled up in his eyes. “I’ve got incredible girls. When one of them is hurt like that, they’re all hurt.”
The second half was much like the first, with the Broncos dominating on both sides of the floor. They held Walker to just two points in the third quarter for a 40-13 lead, allowing Adams to keep his starters on the bench for the final eight minutes.
Natasha Holcombe joined Terry in double figures with 11 points. Sidney Cooper was Walker’s high scorer with eight points.
Other Holly Pond contributors were Lexi Lynn, Rachel Finley and Madison Hicks, five points apiece; Taylor Rowell, four; Kristen Sparks and Meg Gambrill, three each; and Malone, two.
With Malone back on the court to round out a stellar starting lineup that includes Terry, Holcombe, Rowell and Gambrill, the Broncos (14-2) crept up to No. 6 in Class 3A of the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s latest girls basketball rankings. Now that the senior will be sidelined for the rest of the season, Adams still believes his squad can make a state championship run.
“They’ll rally no matter what,” the coach said of his girls. “These are great kids. I love them to death, and I know they’ll handle whatever adversity comes their way.”
Malone’s prep basketball career came to an abrupt end with her unfortunate injury on Thursday, but Terry, another senior, said her teammate will certainly still be on the court in spirit throughout the remainder of the season.
“I think we’re going to come out stronger and bounce back,” Taylor said. “We’re going to play for her.”
Athens defeated Gardendale 53-37 on Thursday, setting up a semifinal showdown between Holly Pond and the Golden Eagles at 3:30 p.m. today at the Tom Drake Coliseum.
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 257 or at email@example.com.