Madison Lee sprinted toward midcourt and disappeared into the dogpile.
Torn ACL and all.
A little over a week ago, she ripped the ligament in her right knee for the second time in less than a year. The first one sidelined her for six months. The second one couldn’t keep her from even one game — not when those games were at state.
Saturday came the payoff in the Class B title game.
Okarche 66, Red Oak 41.
If you want to know how big of a deal state titles are in small schools, meet Okarche junior Madison Lee.
“Pretty great,” she said of winning a state title.
The smile on her face and the twinkle in her eye told of slightly more excitement and giddiness than her words did. Lee gutted out three games in three days, playing with her knee heavily wrapped and even more heavily braced. While her stats weren’t great — she managed only two points and two rebounds in the title game — her impact was significant.
“Just her dedication and sacrifice,” Okarche coach Cherie Myers said. “She was just a stabilizer for us.”
Lee’s willpower was way stronger than that knee of hers.
She tore it the first time in July playing with her elite team. She landed wrong on a layup. Two doctors examined her knee and said she had a dislocated knee cap, but an MRI a couple weeks later confirmed a torn ACL.
Surgery and three trips to Piedmont every week for rehab followed.
“She worked so hard coming back,” senior Madi Grellner said.
In mid-January, Lee was cleared to play. She practiced a week, then returned to the court. She played so well that she worked her way into top-ranked Okarche’s starting lineup.
Then came the area finals on Feb. 28.
While chasing down a loose ball, her knee turned and snapped. She didn’t need an MRI to tell her what was wrong.
“I knew that time,” she said. “I just had a gut feeling.”
But just as surely as she knew she’d torn her ACL, she knew she would keep playing.