By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
BELMONT – Kelsie Montgomery’s surgically-repaired knees were knocking minutes before Belmont’s season opener.
“I always get nervous before a game, but I was really nervous before that first game,” said the Lady Cardinals’ junior forward.
To understand Montgomery’s apprehension is to know her story. It’s one of pain, surgery, rehab … and more pain, surgery, rehab.
In last year’s opener, Montgomery didn’t make it to halftime before she fell to the hardwood in excruciating pain. An opponent clipped the side of her right knee when she was going for a rebound. Her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tore.
“I just curled up on the floor and started crying,” she said. “Oh, yeah, it hurt. It felt like the other one, but a lot worse.”
The “other one” was the torn ACL she suffered in the fifth game of her freshman season. That time the ligament in her left knee snapped when she stopped quickly to make a move.
Belmont’s touted future star, one who played as an eighth grader in the state tournament, only participated in six games the last two years and suffered two season-ending knee injuries.
Good year, so far
Montgomery made it past this year’s season opener and has continued to play without injury – knock on wood – this season. She’s averaging 12 points and four rebounds per game and is one of the main reasons the defending 3A state champions are 15-2.
“She’s a lot more confident in her knees,” Belmont coach Chris Higginbottom, said. “When you tear both ACLs it can be mentally tough.”
Montgomery, who can play inside and outside, is a tad slower because of the injuries, but has shown no drop off in her hustle.
In last week’s win against Russellville, Ala., she was fighting for rebounds in traffic, slapping away passes and scambling for loose balls.
“She’s starting to play really hard now,” said teammate Leslie Robinson, a junior point guard.
The 6-foot Montgomery had some big shoes to fill this season when she replaced 5-11 Anna Brooke Page, the Daily Journal’s 2010 Player of the Year.
“We’ve really needed her in the post and she’s stepped it up,” Robinson said. “She’s been a big factor. She’s scoring, blocking shots.”
Montgomery wears a brace on her right knee, the one she injured last season. One of the reasons is because she suffered a meniscus tear in August climbing up a ladder on a boat. She was scoped and went through six additional weeks of rehab.
Her attitude about the possibility of suffering another torn ACL is whatever happens, happens.
“If it’s going to tear again, it’s going to tear,” she said. “My dad (Eric) told me that the night of the first game. He told me to play like I know how to play.”
Her mom, Kim, asked her before the season was the surgery and lengthy rehab really worth it … just to play basketball.
Kelsie’s answer was simply: “I love basketball. If it happens again, I’ll come back and try to play my senior year.
“It’s worth it.”
Contact Gene Phelps at 678-1593