Jade Meadows missed out as the Meigs County girls' basketball team was unable to achieve what it wanted to last season. She also missed out as the Decatur high school's softball team achieved the ultimate goal.
Tearing the ACL in her left knee in a District 3-A tournament game against Knoxville Grace Christian at Roane State cut short Meadows' sophomore basketball season. It also caused her to miss all of softball season, which turned out to be a state-championship year for the Lady Tigers.
"I tried to be there as much as I could," Meadows said of supporting the softball team while rehabilitating her injury.
She even showed up for the state tournament in Murfreesboro and served as an assistant coach — or at least had the look of one.
"We gave her her own bucket," Meigs softball coach Jeff Davis said. "She sat beside us in the dugout for five games and watched. I know she'd much rather had been out there playing. We'd much rather have had her out there, too."
Meadows' injury occurred last Feb. 23. The 5-foot-11 post player went up for a rebound, crashed the side of her knee into an opposing player, then spilled to the floor.
"When it first happened I didn't think it was that big of a deal," Meadows said. "It didn't feel that painful. Then I started to get up and I couldn't walk."
The Lady Tigers had compiled a 24-3 record in the regular season, including a 14-0 mark against district competition. They got to the Region 2 tournament and won at Wartburg in the opening round.
But when play moved to Harriman for the semifinals, they lost a two-point game to district opponent Midway — a team it had beaten by 23 and 15 in their regular-season games — and failed to get to a state sectional.
"Last year we didn't have a bunch of great post players at all," basketball coach Jason Powell said. "Losing her, we lost our inside presence. I really think if she hadn't gotten hurt we'd have at least made the sub-state."
Coincidentally, Meigs (11-4, 5-0) plays at Midway tonight — girls at 6 p.m., boys at 7:30.
Meadows had surgery in March. She also missed her select softball season, missed summer basketball camp and missed the fall basketball league at the school while strenuously working her way back.
"I didn't think it would be as hard to get back to where I am now," she said.
Powell said his basketball team spent a couple of Saturdays competing in playdays shortly before the TSSAA season started. That was the first real test for Meadows' knee.
"We'd play her two or three minutes, then get her out," Powell said. "We were not trying to overdo it."
Then when Meigs opened its season, hosting and defeating Bledsoe County on Nov. 15 in a Hall of Champions game, there she was in the starting lineup.
"She was ready to go," Powell said, noting that Meadows wore a knee brace in the beginning but only for a short while. "I think she still had a little bit of swelling, but I think she was fine."
Meadows is averaging similar statistics as before, around 10 points and six rebounds per game. Davis is hoping for similar or better numbers than she put up before in softball.
"She's just a real good player," Davis said. "She's about as good a first baseman as you'll ever see. She can also play in the outfield, depending on who's pitching. She'll give us another bat in the middle of the lineup. She probably hit about .420 with six or seven home runs her freshman year.
"We're just hoping to keep her healthy until we get her in March. So far, so good."
Meadows' long layoff was as tough on her mentally as it was physically. So what was the first thing she did when she was released by doctors at the end of summer?
"I wanted to go to the nets and swing," Meadows said. "I could hit before I could do anything else. I could hit before I could run.
"I had played nonstop since I was 4 and hadn't had a big break from it like that. I think I forgot how much I love to play."
Contact Kelley Smiddie at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6653. Follow him on Twitter @KelleySmiddie.