Murray's Kalai Trice knew immediately her senior season was over before it had even begun.
With just 18 seconds remaining in a scrimmage on Nov. 19, she tore her right ACL after jumping for a rebound and landing awkwardly. The 5-foot-8 guard made her diagnosis quickly because, just three years earlier, she suffered the same injury to her left knee.
"That moment, I got sick to my stomach," Lady Tigers coach Rechelle Turner said. "Not only for our team but for her personally. She'd been such a leader and a great player for us for so many years. She'd worked so hard to improve her game. To know at that moment her senior year might be over, it breaks your heart."
Trice admits the two injuries have been "tough," but she's focused on helping her teammates. She barks out adjustments when the Lady Tigers aren't properly set on defense, which she did several times during Saturday's 49-37 win against Graves County at Mustang Madness at McCracken High School. If they need motivation during a timeout, Trice gives it.
The Lady Tigers improved to 16-2 with none of their losses against a team from Kentucky. But it's easy for them to think what could've been had Trice not torn her ACL.
"It's a really big letdown for our team," Lady Tigers senior Julie Thiede said. "I was just really hoping she'd be on the floor with me leading the team. There's no telling how good we would've been at this point.
"She definitely would've given us a better look defensively. She was our defensive spark. Without her there, we're struggling."
While some injured athletes feel separate from their teammates because they can't contribute, the Lady Tigers have provided support. Some even sign their tweets with the hashtag of playforkalai.
Trice hopes to play in college at a small school close to home. Turner has sent video of Trice to coaches and believes she'll have an opportunity to continue playing as a shooting guard or small forward. She believes too much in Trice's versatility and defense to think otherwise.
Three weeks after her surgery, Trice is already off crutches. The joint, however, still bothers her and the swelling forces her to walk with a limp. She said there's more pain now than at the same point after her first surgery.
But for now, the injury and college aren't as important as helping the Lady Tigers.
"I just love watching them play," she said, "but I wish I could be out there playing defense and rebounding."
Call Daniel Paulling, a Sun sports writer, at 270-575-8662, or follow on Twitter @DanielPaulling.
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