SENECA – Before Thursday, the Seneca varsity girls basketball team had 21 wins this season. One of the biggest wins came with a heavy cost.
Lisle was undefeated in the Interstate Eight Conference before visiting Seneca handed it a 42-28 loss Jan. 13. For one of Seneca’s nine seniors, Kayla Haines, the game was one she will likely never forget, but for the wrong reasons.
“I was just kind of dribbling around the top of the key, and they were starting to put some pressure on me,” Haines said Thursday before Seneca’s senior-night game against Reed-Custer. “So I tried to turn and dribble out of there. When I turned, my knee like twisted and kind of bent. So, then I fell down.”
Though it was not until later that Haines found out she had torn her anterior cruciate ligament, and partially tore her medial collateral ligament and her medial meniscus, she knew quickly that serious damage had been done.
“The trainer at Lisle basically told me that it was my ACL, so I was very, very disappointed right then and there. I really couldn’t control my feelings. I was crying,” Haines said. “I knew then that basketball and softball were over for me.”
Haines scored 2.5 points a game on a team with four players averaging more than eight, but even with the time she has missed, her 96 rebounds rank third on the team. She usually started, and she was one of seven players on the team that went to junior high together and have been teammates for many years.
“She was definitely a role player. I mean, she knew she wasn’t going to be the top scorer every night, but she did everything else that she needed to do, whether she was picking up the scrappy rebounds or kicking out the assists,” Seneca coach Barb Beck said of Haines. “Statistically, she may not be the one shining in the books, but the little things she was finding a way to make into big things.”
The Lisle win made Seneca 17-3 overall. Since then, the Lady Irish have gone 4-2, with both losses relatively competitive against a perfect Coal City team. They beat Lisle again, 38-22, in the Interstate Eight Conference tournament. And they earned the No. 1 seed at next week’s Class 2A Marquette Regional.
“I think we’re doing good. Our game against Coal City, we didn’t come out with a win, but we played awesome,” senior post Anna Baker said. “I think it’s awesome how each one of us can step up every night, and if somebody’s having a bad night, there’s always someone there.”
On a team averaging (before Thursday) 46 points a game to its opponents’ 35.5, Mallory Misener is the leading scorer with a relatively low average of 10.4 points. The other primary scorers – Danielle Hauch (9.5 PPG), Jacey Lamboley (8.2 PPG) and Baker (8.1 PPG) – are also seniors.
It is a senior class that has several important contributors but may be lacking an indisposable one, as evidenced by the way the team has soldiered on without Haines.
“There’s not a given star every night,” Beck said. “It’s not like, ‘OK, we’re gonna guard your superstar, now we’re gonna see what everybody else does,’ because I think they all share the wealth.”
While Haines has been relegated to fan and supporter of the Irish, hers is not a story that will necessarily lack a happy ending. On Thursday, she was in uniform, and the Lady Irish and Reed-Custer planned to allow her to make an unguarded basket at the beginning of the game. She plans to attend – and to play volleyball at – North Central College. And the Lady Irish still have at least one game, and possibly several more, to go.
“It’s actually really exciting to see my friends, my teammates, do just as well without me on the court,” Haines said. “I know they wish that I could be out there. I wish I could be out there to help them, but it’s really exciting to see them do well.”