Amanda Fire was going up for a rebound, as she had done thousands of times, but something felt different in her knee when she came down during an AAU game last July.
Although her teammates and coaches told her they didn't think she had torn her right ACL, that's exactly what she had done -- and worse.
After also rupturing her MCL and meniscus after an opponent "plowed into the side" of her during the rebound, she had to undergo surgery.
"It hurt like nothing else," Fire said. "After we got the MRI, it was worse than we thought it was."
What it didn't mean, however, was that her career as a basketball player or even as a member of the Gahanna Lincoln High School girls team was over.
After sitting out the first 13 games as she rehabbed and gained strength, the senior played in her first game as the Lions lost to Westerville North 46-41 on Jan. 17.
Gahanna was 13-7 overall and 4-4 in the OCC-Ohio Division before playing Grove City on Feb. 7. It closes the regular season Friday, Feb. 10, at Lancaster.
The Lions are seeded 11th for the Division I district tournament and will open the postseason Feb. 18 at home against 28th-seeded Mifflin.
"My first game back was against Westerville North because I wanted to have one game in before we played Pickerington Central (on Jan. 20)," said Fire, a post player. "It's much harder than I thought it was going to be. I really thought I'd be able to jump back into it like nothing had ever happened. But I haven't run for six months and I'm definitely out of shape. It took me three games to finally get my first bucket. Once that happened there was a weight lifted off my shoulders."
The 6-foot Fire has given a boost to a frontcourt that also includes senior Mena Colson, juniors A'mya Bess and Addie Kittel and sophomore Breyanna Bess.
Fire scored four points in a 50-42 win over Pickerington North on Feb. 3.
Rather than sit out the entire season, the motivation of playing collegiately helped Fire to stay focused throughout her rehab.
She turned down an offer several months ago to play for Shawnee State and is instead weighing taking athletic scholarship money to play for Tiffin or academic money while playing for Ohio Northern, a Division III school.
During her injury, she developed an interest in studying physical therapy.
"I want to play in college for sure, so I'd rather get caught up now and get better," Fire said. "Tiffin offered full tuition, and with Ohio Northern, I (would get) a decent academic scholarship, but (ONU's) physical therapy program is much better than Tiffin's. Having a problem with my knee, I was like, 'Wow, I could totally do (physical therapy).' I had no idea what I wanted to do until then. It was sort of a blessing in disguise."
Fire is the daughter of Chris Fire and Julie Fire, whose maiden name is Badgett. Julie is a 1988 Gahanna graduate who played basketball and helped the Lions win a district title as a junior.
Amanda has a twin, Emily Fire, who was born with Rett syndrome, a rare genetic postnatal neurological disorder that keeps her in a wheelchair.
"She has to wear headphones (when she comes to games) because it gets pretty loud, but you can tell she usually has a good time," Fire said of her sister.
Gahanna coach Betsy Morrison has been impressed with the maturity Fire has shown throughout this school year.
"She gives us a different look," Morrison said. "She's an experienced post player at the varsity level. She's a very special kid. One night we had an evening practice, and she wanted to make sure she was able to get home because Emily's caregiver was leaving. She doesn't want to be too far from (her sister), and Ohio Northern and Tiffin are both great schools with good basketball programs."
Boys basketball team
The boys basketball team figures to be somewhere in the middle of the pack seed-wise when the Division I district tournament bracket is announced Sunday, Feb. 12.
The Lions were just 1-6 in the OCC-Ohio before playing Grove City on Feb. 7, but they improved to 11-8 overall after beating Dayton Northridge 78-56 on Feb. 4.
Gahanna, which closes the regular season Friday, Feb. 10, at home against Lancaster and Feb. 17 at Pickerington Central, expected sophomore forward Jordan Mitchell to be back for the game against Grove City.
He didn't play in a 58-43 loss to Pickerington North on Feb. 3 or against Northridge because of personal reasons.
In the absence of Mitchell, who was averaging 11.3 points before Feb. 7, sophomore wing player Josh Corbin had 25 points and junior point guard Chase Rankin scored 17 against Northridge. Both were career highs.
"The biggest thing is that we've got to put consistent fourth quarters together," coach Tony Staib said. "(Grove City was our 20th game) and we're not young any more. We play well in spurts.
"Other teams really focus on Jordan, so it's got to be a team effort. We want to put some pressure on teams and use our depth to our advantage. We've got to keep fighting."
Hockey team preps
for CBJ Cup tourney
With a 2-0 win over Springboro on Feb. 4, the hockey team earned a season sweep of the Panthers and a third-place finish in the CHC-White Division at 8-8.
The Lions, who also beat Springboro 3-1 on Jan. 28, clinched the seventh seed for the Blue Jackets Cup and will open Thursday, Feb. 9, against second-seeded Olentangy Liberty at OhioHealth Ice Haus. The winner plays third-seeded Upper Arlington or sixth-seeded Olentangy Orange on Friday, Feb. 10, and that winner advances to the championship game Sunday, Feb. 12. The top four teams in the CHC-Red, the top three in the CHC-White and the first-place finisher in the CHC-Blue qualified.
Gahanna has won four of its last six and is 16-11-3 overall.
In the second win over Springboro, Jared Chobany and Will Rhymer scored one goal apiece and Austin Barok, Jacob Nemec and Andy To each had one assist.
Goaltender Chris Henestofel finished with 27 saves and posted his first shutout this season. He is 8-5-3 on the season.
Henestofel, who missed five games in mid-January because of a concussion, has a career record of 51-43-3 and is the program's all-time leader in wins. Mike Iseringhausen, a 2006 graduate, is a distant second with 21.
Freshman Matt McElligott, the team's other goalie, is 8-6 and posted his first career shutout Jan. 15 with a 3-0 win over Strongsville.
"Having a senior goaltender helps quite a bit, and Matt's actually really stepped up as well," coach J.J. Stallsworth said.
Six Lions athletes
reveal college picks
On national signing day Feb. 1, six Gahanna fall sports athletes announced their college destinations.
Lindsay Stamas will play women's soccer for Otterbein.
In football, Jayvonta Tolliver will play for Georgetown, Mohammed Amer will play for Tiffin, Raheem Smith will play for Limestone, Bailey McCoy will play for Ohio Wesleyan and Mike Harris will play for Hocking College.