Augusta Christian girls basketball coach Keith Walton was describing the moment that changed the Lions' fortunes for the worse last season.
Walton said he heard a popping sound when standout guard Elizabeth Alewine worked an open lane to the basket at Hammond and then went in for a layup. Alewine, who was averaging 23 points per game, tore her medial patellofemoral ligament and was done for the season.
The Lions dropped that game and struggled through their remaining schedule while other players battled the flu.
Dr. Paul Herzwurm reattached Alewine's ligament. She lifted weights during the summer but was not cleared to run until the Lions started team camp prior to the season.
Augusta Christian opened region play Friday at Hammond, and Alewine returned to the scene of her injury almost fully recovered, scoring 11 points in the Lions' 58-52 win.
"The energy level of our team goes through the roof," when Alewine is on the floor, Walton said. "She's a tough girl."
Alewine would have to be tough to come back from the streak of mishaps that have stalled her high school career.
As an eighth-grader playing varsity, Alewine was involved in a car crash. As a freshman, she was hospitalized with a mysterious illness doctors first thought was Crohn's disease and then pneumonia.
She recovered by the start of her junior year only to tear up her knee.
"One of our goals is to have an injury-free, sick-free season, and we'll move on from there," Walton said.
Alewine is averaging nearly 19 points per game. She's had some help from teammate Amaura Brandt.
Brandt, a freshman whose father is the women's basketball coach at USC Aiken, has given the Lions another scorer and helped balance the offense.
"She helped take some of the pressure off all the scoring for me," Alewine said. "She's been a key ingredient to how we're going to win this year."
Still, Alewine remains the team's primary shooter.
She works on her shot with her father at Westside Baptist Church, and she often calls Walton to let her in the Lions gym to practice even more.
Walton said Alewine, who had been primarily a 3-point shooter, has developed a more well-rounded game.
"She's been able to get to the (basket) a lot more," Walton said. "She's got a little floater going. If she squares her shoulders up, it will fall."
If she and her teammates stay healthy, the Lions should have a good shot to compete in SCISA Region 1-AAA. Heathwood Hall, which boasts a pair of Division I prospects, appears to be the region favorite.
But the Lions are off to a good start with Friday's win. Brandt scored 13 points, and nine other Lions also got in the books.
Walton said he and his team were so eager to begin region play that they wished Hammond had been the Lions' season opener.
"Because the way the season went last year, when she got hurt, the team morale was so far down," Walton said. "It just ended wrong."
Alewine has help this season, and she and her team are trying to erase last season's memories.
"We've learned we have to play together or we're not going to get anywhere," Alewine said. "Coach Walton's done a good job of keeping us together and realizing that."
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