The road to recovery took a big step forward for Gahanna Lincoln High School girls basketball player Reyna Montgomery during the final week of January.
The senior guard, who missed the final three games of last season with a concussion, was expected to enter this year as the Lions' player with the most varsity experience.
During last year's AAU season, however, she suffered a right knee injury that required microfracture surgery June 17.
The injury kept Montgomery out of the first 17 games this season, as Gahanna relied on players including senior starters Zenobia Bess (post player), Maddison Blackwell (forward), Chrishna Butler (guard) and Quiera Lampkins (guard) and senior backups Nikki Campbell-Muriente (forward), Ta'Ven Carruthers (post player), Kalene Kennedy (forward) and Morgan Ross (post player).
While Butler and Lampkins both became key players as sophomores, Bess has been a starter since her freshman season. Montgomery became part of the team's rotation as a freshman and started at times throughout the last two seasons, averaging 6.1 points a year ago.
In her first game this season, Montgomery scored two points as Gahanna lost to Reynoldsburg 57-43 on Jan. 29. She had nine points in a 55-49 win over Newark on Jan. 31 and two points in a 54-41 win over Lancaster on Feb. 1, as the Lions improved to 17-3 overall heading into a game Feb. 5 at Grove City.
"It went OK," Montgomery said of her debut. "It was really rough in the beginning just getting the feel of the team."
The addition of Montgomery isn't the only thing that could affect the Lions' chemistry over the coming weeks.
Campbell-Muriente, who had scored in 12 of Gahanna's first 17 games, became ineligible just before the Reynoldsburg game and isn't expected to be back this season, according to coach Rick Hauser.
Junior forward Trinity Hunter and Montgomery were the only bench players to see significant action against Reynoldsburg.
Sophomore Sydney Stokes has been starting at guard alongside Lampkins and Butler.
Against Reynoldsburg, Montgomery missed all three of her shots in the first half before making her first basket of the season midway through the third quarter. She also added two rebounds.
Gahanna rallied from a 13-point, first-quarter deficit to cut it to 36-33 with 1 minute, 21 seconds left in the third quarter, but the Raiders pulled away with a 10-1 run to begin the final period.
Reynoldsburg was fourth in last week's Division I state poll and first in the area coaches poll. Gahanna was second in the area poll.
"I thought they were better defensively and a lot more energized than we were," Montgomery said. "We have to just focus on our upcoming opportunities, running our plays and finishing more. We just have to learn to play together more as a team."
Reynoldsburg clinched a share of the OCC-Ohio Division title by beating Pickerington North 49-37 on Feb. 1 and won it outright if it beat Lancaster on Feb. 5. The Raiders went 14-0 in the league each of the last two seasons and were 12-0 before Feb. 5.
Gahanna, which was 10-2 in the league before Feb. 5, received the second seed in the Division I district tournament and opens the postseason Feb. 16 at Groveport.
"If you can't score inside, that's the difference," Hauser said. "We didn't hit enough shots inside (against Reynoldsburg).
"To play at the level (of our competition), Reyna has got a ways to go. Nikki was our first kid off the bench, so we're substituting a guard in for her. Obviously we've got to work through that and figure out how we're going to do that. We'll have to get back up and refocus."