Jade Jones played in pain in last year’s state tournament.
Jones knew her knee was hurting, but didn’t know that she had torn her ACL in the area finals the week before.
But Jones is healthy again, although wearing a brace on her surgically repaired knee, and has Pond Creek-Hunter back in the Class A girls state tournament.
Jones scored a game-high 20 points Thursday, including a perfect 12-of-12 from the free throw line, as the Lady Panthers crushed No. 5 Caddo, 59-30, in the first round of the state tournament.
“She is priceless”, said Pond-Creek Hunter coach Tasha Diesselhorst of her 5-6 point guard. “She is kind of my coach out on the floor. She kind of makes us go. When she’s got four players chasing her around, she can still go score. She is special.”
Jones, who has scored more than 2,000 points in her career, averages 25.8 points for third-ranked Pond Creek, now 26-1 on the season.
Jones said she has fully recovered from the injury that left her playing in pain in last year’s opening round state tournament defeat to Cheyenne. She didn’t see a doctor until after the state tournament last season.
It was eight months after her surgery before she was cleared to play again.
“I feel like the brace slows me down, but I feel like I am 100 percent,” Jones said.
On Thursday, the Lady Panthers never trailed in the game and seized control for good by outscoring Caddo 18-6 in the second period for a 30-17 halftime lead. The two teams played even in the third period but Pond Creek-Hunter outscored Caddo 20-4 in the fourth.
“We just kept playing hard,” Diesselhorst said. “Our intensity level was high and we just kept getting stops on defense and pushing and attacking their zone.”
Even though Jones is healthy, the Lady Panthers enter the state tournament with the loss of a key player. Freshman starter Tyra Peck was lost for the season with a torn ACL late in the regular season.
“It was a huge blow,” Diesselhorst said. “She was probably our best athlete on the court. She did everything for us.. We kind of had to regroup before the playoffs started and kind of tweaked some things and some of these other girls have kind of stepped into some bigger roles.”
Even with the loss of Peck, Jones said she will be disappointed with nothing less than a state championship in her final trip to the state tournament.
“This is our last chance,” she said.
Diesselhorst said Jones worked hard to rehabilitate her knee just for this opportunity.
“She has been waiting a year to get back here,” Diesselhorst said. “Nothing will satisfy her but the gold ball.”
Caddo finished its season at 23-2.