By PAUL HINES firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — MT. VERNON – An injury ended Haley Lockhart's senior season early, but it won't stop her basketball career.
Lockhart recently committed to Lincoln Land College located in Springfield.
“The players and the coach stood out to me the most,” Lockhart said. “They were very welcoming, and we got along great.”
Lockhart entered the basketball season and emerged as the Lady Rams top scorer. She led the team with 17 points per game and was on pace to eclipse the 1,000-point mark for her career. Lockhart finished her career with about 700 points.
The milestone hopes and the remainder of her senior season disappeared in early December when Lockhart suffered a torn ACL and meniscus against Centralia. Lockhart exited the game with an injury before briefly returning to action before leaving for good. Initially hopes were high for a return that season before the full extent of the injury was learned.
“She was on a pace to do it,” Mt. Vernon coach Jeff Lonnon said. “She really started out well.
“It was just a goal she didn't get to realize. So having her go on to the next level and having this opportunity, especially walking around with a surgically repaired knee, is thrilling to me.”
Lockhart was forced to cheer on her teammates from the bench. The Lady Rams surpassed the 20-win mark and won the South Seven title with a 9-1 record. Both were achievements the Lady Rams program hadn't achieved in nearly a decade. Lockhart said she learned the lesson of patience this season as she went through the injury and subsequent surgery along with starting the rehabilitation process.
“Patience has been the hardest part of therapy for me because I hate not playing the game,” Lockhart said. “ACL injuries are a long process. I just want to get back out there as soon as I can but I have to wait to be at my full potential.”
Lonnon added that Lockhart has discovered the depth of her passion for the game after having it taken away for several months.
“I think that really is going to help her as she goes into college,” Lonnon said. “Because she's really hungry to play right now.”
Rehabilitation is an ongoing process for Lockhart. She is involved in a walking and running program. She could be back on the basketball court playing by May.