Playing through the painThis is the year the Napoleon girls basketball program had been waiting for. Entering the season the team had compiled an impressive résumé of 59 wins to 13 losses over the past three winters, and everyone who contributed to last year’s 17-7 campaign that culminated in a Region 3 championship-game berth was returning to the court.
By: By Michael Savaloja, The Jamestown Sun, The Jamestown Sun
This is the year the Napoleon girls basketball program had been waiting for.
Entering the season the team had compiled an impressive résumé of 59 wins to 13 losses over the past three winters, and everyone who contributed to last year’s 17-7 campaign that culminated in a Region 3 championship-game berth was returning to the court.
All five starters are back — including a pair of senior teammates who have combined to score over 2,500 career points — and the team’s depth and talent was well recognized by the rest of the state.
The Imperials were ranked No. 2 in the first state Class B girls basketball poll of the season. The team is still ranked third, but that will probably change, however, with the next poll due to be released on Monday.
The Imperials (7-1) were dealt their first loss of the season inside the Jamestown Civic Center this past Monday, falling to a solid squad of Midkota Mustangs 60-55 in the championship of the Stutsman County Girls Basketball Tournament.
But what those in Jamestown were also able to witness over the weekend was the progress being made by two-time second team all-state recipient Sheridon Dewald.
The Napoleon senior standout tore the ACL in her left knee late in the 2011 volleyball season, and played through the injury on the hardwood for the Imperials last winter.
Sporting a knee brace, Dewald finished the three-game Stutsman Tourney with 44 points, 22 rebounds and 5 steals, but she says she’s still not yet at 100 percent.
“I’m still not the same. (The doctors) said that I wouldn’t be the same right away,” Dewald said, following Napoleon’s 60-46 win over Carrington’s JV team at the Civic Center on Saturday. “They’re like, ‘As the season goes on, I’ll get more used to playing.’ But, I mean, it’s still a struggle and it takes a lot to get used to.”
Even with the torn ligament in her knee, Dewald led the Imperials last season in scoring and rebounding, averaging 16.8 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 1.3 assists per game in her junior season. According to Napoleon coach Darcy Lehr then, he said Dewald was operating at about 70 percent of her athletic ability when she was on the court.
Dewald has been a staple on the team since her eighth-grade year, and entered the season with 1,590 career points. The Imperials fell to Linton-HMB 60-49 in last year’s Region 3 championship game.
“It gets frustrating,” Dewald said of her injury. “Especially in games like (Saturday), when I’m on the court the whole time. It gets really sore and it kind of gets harder to play it with.”
Dewald posted a double-double of 20 points and 11 rebounds against Carrington’s JV that evening.
But a setback in her rehabilitation has also been frustrating for the Napoleon senior. A surgery to repair the knee last spring proved unsuccessful, and Dewald had to undergo a second surgery in late June.
The rehabilitation and recovery period for a surgically repaired ACL varies from patient to patient, and can depend on the severity of the injury. Some have recovered in as little as 4 to 6 months, while others have taken 9 months to a year, according to several medical-related websites.
“I don’t regret it, I guess, because it made me a better player,” Dewald said of playing through the injury last winter. “I use my teammates more, and I worked on my outside shot more. (It taught me) other ways to score then I did when I was an eighth-grader or a freshman.
“I always drove, and I could do that easily, but now some moves I cannot do because I can’t step that way and it’ll bother me.”
But it’s obvious that Dewald is fighter, and she and the Imperials have no plans of quitting on their dream of making it to this year’s state Class B tournament at the Fargodome in March.
She’s one of six experienced seniors on a very solid team that includes Kendra Weigel, Brenna Schmidt, Mikayla Young, Brianna Wolf, and Kecia Ellison. Weigel has also amassed over 1,000 career points, and entered the year with 1,144 markers.
Dewald believes she and her fellow senior teammates are up to the challenge of the road ahead.
“I think every game we have a little bit of nerves. It’s extra pressure,” Dewald said. “We obviously have six seniors and we’ve been trying to get to state for so many years now. We want this year to be our year.”
Sun sports writer Michael Savaloja can be reached at (701) 952-8461 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org