SERGEANT BLUFF, Iowa | The Sergeant Bluff-Luton girls' basketball team didn't get a bad break in the latter stages of this season.
It got two bad breaks. Same finger, in fact.
Both Kylee Christensen and Kenzie Foley, Warrior post players, suffered a broken left pinkie. Both are out for the season after having surgery; Foley on Feb. 6, Christensen on Feb. 7.
Surgeons inserted two pins to address the fractures. For both, of course.
Christensen, a senior, suffered the injury in a game against the Spencer Tigers on Jan. 20. The ball bounced off the rim at a weird angle and caught her finger. "I ran down the court and closed my fist and I felt it crack," Christensen said. "I couldn't move it."
She saw the trainer at halftime and learned her season might be over. She got that news, for good, a while later as her hand didn't respond to treatment the way doctors hoped it might. She eventually had surgery after medical pros tried to re-break her finger to see if it would stay in place.
Foley's injury took place in the first half of the Warriors' game against Bishop Heelan on Feb. 2. Foley said a rebound came off the rim and hit her left hand oddly, splitting her pinkie away from her ring-finger. "I felt the pops in my hand," she said. "I played in the second half, but I only scored one point. It was hard to grab the ball."
The injuries swiped two starters and major contributors from the team of Coach Miranda Riediger. However, as both Christensen and Foley stood by offering support and water bottles for their teammates, the Warriors played on and ended up sharing in the regular season title for the Missouri River Activities Conference, a repeat of the 2016-17 campaign. The key victory without these two was a 57-43 triumph at Council Bluffs Thomas Jefferson one week ago which left the Warriors with a 9-3 league mark, equaling the loop record fashioned by the Crusaders.
"We get a little medal and a t-shirt for winning the conference," Foley said.
"The seniors designed the t-shirts," Christensen added. "They're cool."
On Wednesday, the Warriors began post-season action with a victory over Spencer, allowing SB-L to advance to a Class 4A Regional contest at Le Mars Community High School at 7 p.m. Saturday. The Warriors, without these two, will attempt to avenge a 46-45 loss to the Bulldogs on Dec. 9. While it's not impossible, it is a tall order considering Christensen had 15 points and 11 rebounds in the earlier meeting, while Foley scored 14 points and gathered 15 boards.
Riediger said she's proud of how her injured players have rebounded, to use a basketball term in a different sense. "Both girls are on our bench and both are sharing what they recall from the scouting reports," said Riediger. "They share what they're seeing from the bench. It's coming from a whole new perspective."
Christensen, who coaches an eighth-grade Black Attack AAU volleyball team from SB-L, said the experience, while incredibly disappointing, may help her one day as a teacher and coach, should she ever have a player who suffers a season-ending injury. She's heading to the University of Nebraska at Lincoln this fall to major in elementary education.
Foley, on the other hand, eyes a return to competition when softball season begins this spring at SB-L, where she played shortstop and pitched last summer. She'll also continue her SB-L career on the volleyball and basketball courts as a junior next year.
"I feel worse for Kylee because she's a senior," said Foley. "I still have softball this year and then two more years."
Their basketball team, they hope, has more action this season. And they promise to do all they can to keep their teammates going strong in practice on Friday and at Le Mars in the Regional on Saturday.
"Our teammates have really stepped up," Christensen said, heaping praise on the team as it began practice in the background. "When our coaches are done in the huddle we try to tell our players to be confident. We're trying to be as supportive as we can."
After good plays, they share high-fives with their teammates. And, with each other? They share what you might call the "high-cast."