McMonigle plays on despite ACL tear

As she watched 2017 basketball film, Sasha McMonigle realized she could do something few others can.

So what if he had torn her ACL last fall playing soccer? So what if she was told her basketball season was over before it ever started? McMonigle decided right then she would play through the pain. She would not let her knee destroy her junior season. Against the odds, McMonigle decided she was coming back.

The three-year starting point guard made her return last week, helping Muncy win consecutive games against Montgomery and Bucktail. The engine that helped power Muncy to its first playoff berth in three seasons last year looked like the same player despite wearing a long and bulky knee brace. She has pushed the injury aside and is hoping to turn what could have been a heart-breaking story into a happy one.

“I was told that I needed surgery and that I could not come back and I was really devastated over that,” McMonigle said after dealing four assists against Montgomery. “I started watching Hudl films from last year and I started thinking I should come back. My team needs me and I can do this.”

She sure can. McMonigle is a warrior. She is a player with an everlasting motor and never has shied away from sacrificing her body on the court. If there is a price to pay to play the game she loves, McMonigle will keep hitting the bank.

McMonigle risks injuring her meniscus more by playing, but the tear in her ACL cannot get any worse. Pushing the risk aside it became an issue of pain tolerance. Anyone who knows McMonigle knew what decision she would make at that point.

“She is probably the toughest kid I’ve ever met and I’ve known some really tough athletes over the years. She’s a freak athlete with an attitude like, ‘it won’t beat me, I’ll beat it,'” Muncy coach Ed Rogers said. “That’s the way she plays the game. There is no, ‘I can’t handle it,’ mentality with Sasha.”

Because of he injury, McMonigle was unable to start fully practicing until two weeks ago. Before that, she could essentially just run in straight lines. But once on the court against Montgomery, McMonigle looked like the same player who averaged 9.7 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.3 steals per game last season. She ran the offense well, had little trouble sprinting up and down the court, still vigorously defended and went after loose balls.

The knee brace is the only reminder that McMonigle is playing through a torn ACL. That is how she plans on keeping it, too.

“I feel like it’s not there. It’s pushed back in my mind. I just care about the game and working hard there and in practice,” McMonigle said. “This (first game) proved that the knee is strong and that it can hold up. I expect to be the same player I was before.”

That is a huge plus for Muncy which now has all five starters back from last year’s team. The Indians (3-4) did not look like the same team without McMonigle, but her return suddenly opens things up. Defenses no longer can simply collapse on 6-foot center Makenna Snyder. With Kassidi Lenhart becoming an excellent outside threat and McMonigle breaking down defenses, everyone is getting involved offensively. It was not shocking then that Muncy produced its highest point total this season in McMonigle’s first game back.

Muncy then shattered that total Saturday, routing Bucktail, 80-30, as McMonigle scored 13 points. Lenhart delivered 18 for a second straight game and Snyder added 11.

“What she brought us was calmness. When they started pressing us it didn’t feel like they were,” Rogers said. “There are a lot of good things she brings to the court.”

“Having Sasha back was really nice,” Lenhart said. “She has a very good sense of the floor and a really good handle on the ball.”

When the season ends, McMonigle will undergo knee surgery. She will not play soccer in the fall and should return full strength of her senior basketball season. McMonigle hopes to play college basketball and refuses to let this injury derail her dream. Each game is a challenge, but McMonigle never shies away from those. And right now, McMonigle is letting her ACL know that he controls her own destiny.

“It was a lot of work coming back from it, but it feels good to be back,” McMonigle said. “I know I can do a lot of good for the team being back.”

MCNAMEE MILESTONE

Shayna McNamee joined an exclusive St. John Neumann club Saturday afternoon when she scored her 1,000th career point in a 46-30 win at Millville. The four-year starter who has played both shooting and point guard during her scholastic career needed two points entering the game to reach the milestone and did so in the first quarter as Neumann won its second straight game.

McNamee has helped Neumann reach the playoffs in consecutive years and led the area in scoring last year, becoming the first Neumann player to do so in the 2000s. She helped the Knights (5-5) win both their games last week.

PUTBACKS

Speaking of Neumann, it recorded an especially big win when Anne Weller hit a near buzzer-beating 3-pointer against Benton last Wednesday. Weller’s last-second 3-pointer capped an impressive comeback as Neumann beat the 2017 Class A state qualifiers, 53-51. That is the kind of win that shows why Neumann could be a darkhorse in the Class A field. Abby Henderson pulled down eight rebounds while Gabby Lisi scored 11 points … Hughesville senior Jayden Leighow finished a rebound shy of recording a third straight double-double Saturday at Loyalsock. Leighow scored 12 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Over her last three games she is averaging 12.7 points and 10 rebounds … Galeton (5-4) has won three straight games and won a 49-46 overtime thriller Wednesday against Cameron County. The Tigers overcame a 13-point, fourth-quarter deficit, Haylee Ludington forced overtime when she scored with 10 seconds remaining. She, Makaya Shadle and Katelyn Pagano all reached double figures and combined for 43 points … North Penn-Liberty is a vastly improved team this year and defeated Meadowbrook Christian, 52-47, in overtime Wednesday. Eva Rice scored 16 points and Taylor Thompson added 15. Liberty had North Penn-Mansfield on the ropes a night earlier but the Tigers overcame a 10-point halftime deficit and won, 46-41. It was the second time in less than a week that Mansfield (4-5) rallied from a deficit of nine or more points. Lizzi Welch (11 points, 10 rebounds) recorded her second double-double in three games and JoAnne McNamara added 10 points …. Karmen Short scored a career-high 17 points for Cowanesque Valley in a 51-46 overtime loss to Northeast Bradford.

Dr. Masse’s Top 5 Girls Basketball Teams

1. Wellsboro (8-0)

The Green Hornets are romping through the NTL thus far and have a shot at exacting some revenge Wednesday when they host Athens in a rematch of last year’s NTL title game that the Wildcats won. Tory Self, Emma Poirier and Lizzie Poirier all are averaging more than 13 points per game and Rachael Tuttle is among the area’s leading rebounds, averaging more than 10 for a second straight season. Mikel Shabloski showed she can be dangerous as well in Thursday’s win against Troy, scoring a career-high 16 points. Self is running the offense well and had 10 assists that night while Emma Poirier topped 20 points the fourth time.

2. Loyalsock (7-2)

Despite having not played in eight nights, Loyalsock looked especially strong defensively Saturday as it defeated rival Hughesville, 51-31 and snapped its five-game winning streak. The Lancers swarmed early and often, allowed just three first-half field goals and never led by fewer than 12 points over the final three quarters. Considering the opponent, it was Loyalsock’s best defensive performance this season.

“We’ve worked a lot more on our defensive stuff in practice this year. We need to dictate what the offense does and not let them get into their sets. We try to force the other team to make plays as opposed to running their plays,” Loyalsock coach Curtis Jacobson said. “Our big wins have been because of our defense. We’re still a work in progress on the defensive end and being disciplined and not always taking that chance. I have good athletes so I let them fly around and make plays for the team and we stress that our best offense is our defense.”

3. Warrior Run (8-1)

Senior center Megan Zimmerman is having a tremendous season and keeps putting up big performances despite opponents gearing so much of their defense toward slowing her. Maybe more encouraging for Warrior Run, though, is how some other players are making a bigger offensive impact now. Sydney Hoffman scored a career-high 16 points in a 58-41 win against Central Columbia and Hayden Divers added a career-high 14. It does not hurt either that everyone Warrior Run uses plays tenacious defense. Warrior Run has let just one team top 40 points and allowed two second-half field goals Saturday as it rallied for a 37-27 win over Southern Columbia. The Defenders outscored Southern, 15-4 in the fourth quarter.

4. Sullivan County (8-0)

It might be hard to believe, but Sullivan County did not play its first home games until last week. The Griffins were road warriors through those first six games and proved just as tough at home, routing Millville and CMVT. Sullivan is building some depth to go along with a strong starting lineup and Sophia Springman came off the bench to score a career-high 12 points against CMVT, including eight in the second quarter. Sullivan has nice balance and seven players have reached double figures this season. Sophomore forward Jessica King has grabbed 62 rebounds over her last four games and Leah Beinlich produced a career-high 14 points against Millville. Guard Mykenzie Malacusky is having a strong season as well, scoring at least nine points in all eight games.

5. Lewisburg (6-1)

The Green Dragons have ascended to the top of the District 4 Class AAAA standings and have recorded impressive wins against potential playoff opponents Jersey Shore, Shamokin and Mifflinburg within an eight-night span. No area team is playing better defense than Lewisburg which is holding teams to just 27.2 points per game. The Dragons have allowed fewer than 30 points four times and defeated 2017 HAC finalist Shamokin, 33-22. Grace Kelleher and Bethany Rippon both scored 10 points Saturday as Lewisburg beat Mifflinburg, 38-31 and exacted a measure of revenge against a team that beat it three times last year.

Players of the Week

Hannah Kauffman, Jersey Shore and Shayna McNamee, St. John Neumann

Kauffman continued her excellent junior season, scoring 23 points and making nine steals in a 54-50 win against Montoursville. Kauffman added five rebounds and clinched the win with 14 seconds remaining when she went coast to coast off a long rebound and converted a 3-point play. Reaching 1,000 points is a fantastic achievement and was the perfect capper to McNamee’s big week. She scored 46 points in the two wins as Neumann started turning its season around. McNamee delivered 23 points against both Benton and Millville while also playing solid defense.

Game of the Week

Jersey Shore at Sullivan County

The Griffins are off to the best start in program history. Its previous best came last year when Sullivan County started 6-0. Jersey Shore ended that streak, rallying for a 41-38 win. The rematch Monday in Laporte should be another close and entertaining game between teams with high expectations and who are a combined 13-2.

Masse may be reached at cmasse@sungazette.com. Follow him on Twitter at @docmasse.

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