ACL tear doesn’t stop Wapahani’s Lee
MUNCIE — Payten Lee was not sure if she would play this season.
During a June game at Avon, Payten went up for a rebound with her sister, Dayten. When Payten came down, she heard a pop.
At first, the therapist thought it was a hamstring injury, but Lee went to the doctor and had an MRI.
That’s when she found out she had torn her ACL.
Lee worked relentlessly to recover, and in roughly five months she took the court again for the Raiders in November.
On Monday night, she led Wapahani with 13 points in a 36-27 win over Central.
Her nine-point second quarter kept the Raiders (7-4) knotted with the Bearcats (1-12) at halftime. Otherwise, Central would have been in control.
Central coach Lisa Blalock has watched this play out before. With the game within striking distance at halftime, and at the end of the third quarter, the Bearcats had their chances.
DaKoyta Sloss led Central with 12 points.
“It’s been the story of the last three or four games,” Blalock said. “We’re right there, but we just aren’t finishing games well.”
Right after Lee’s summer injury, Wapahani coach Brad Cutter wasn’t sure what he would get out of her this season, if anything.
No one expected her to be back so fast.
She tore it on June 6th and had surgery on June 17th. She was already walking the next day and had to work back slowly. After walking, she started climbing stairs.
“When I was doing therapy and I was able to run and jump, I was told I might be able to come back in five months,” Lee said. “I was able to do stuff pretty much every day.”
Three weeks after surgery, she was able to bend her knee fully. Maybe playing this season would be a reality.
But when the season began, there was nothing she could do but watch.
“It was hard to just sit there because I had been playing since my freshman year,” Lee said. “It was hard to only be able to watch my teammates play, but I was always there for them.”
At first, Lee didn’t trust her knee. She was told that when she ran, she would favor her other knee, or have a slight limp. She didn’t even notice, it was all subconscious.
In her first game back against Wes-Del, she was only cleared to play limited minutes. Five days later after a loss to Winchester, Lee knew she wanted an increased role.
“She said ‘Turn me loose, coach,'” Cutter said. I told her that I trusted her, so I let her go. Luckily, it’s worked out.”
Lee wears a knee brace and said she doesn’t feel any pain. Physically, she believes the strength is all the way back in her knee. She just had one final hurdle to go.
It was a mental block many athletes face after coming back from a serious injury.
Against Cowan last Thursday, Lee banged her knee. No pain.
“I trust it now,” she said. “When I was out there today, I wasn’t even thinking about it.”
Contact prep sports reporter David Polaski at (765) 213-5848. Follow him on Twitter @DavidPolaskiTSP.