Allison Thomas arguably thought about checking back into last Thursday's game in Pingree.
But not yet knowing what an MRI would later reveal, Medina/Pingree-Buchanan girls basketball coach Cory Mack was forced to pump the brakes on one of the brightest young talents in area Class B girls basketball just five games into the new season.
Thomas' left knee had just given way near halfcourt while attempting to break through defenders in the first quarter hosting LaMoure/Litchville Marion. The freshman guard, already playing in her third varsity season, suffered what now only needs to be mentioned in sports circles to imply a severe diagnosis: a non-contact knee injury.
"She was bringing the ball up the court and they were double-teaming her, she turned to get out of it and just went right to the floor," Mack said. "We went out to get her and she kinda got up on her own and I think she was thinking she's coming back in the game."
It's difficult to dampen a competitor's fire, especially while the adrenaline is still pumping. Thomas was averaging around 18 points and seven steals per game for the Thunder, who were 4-0 at the time of her injury and had just handed a then fourth-ranked Carrington team its first loss of the season (6-1) two days earlier.
Thomas, who knocks down 3-pointers and at a clip of more than 40%, showcased her up-and-coming talent at the University of Jamestown's Harold Newman Arena on Dec. 19, accounting for 16 points and 12 steals in a convincing 57-30 win over Hankinson. She scored 11 during the Thunder's upset win hosting Carrington on Jan. 5.
But deep down, Thomas knew something wasn't right.
"It really didn't hurt at all," Thomas said. "When I got up, then it felt like my knee was just a lot tighter and it was really hard to walk.
"It was really unexpected and random," Thomas further explained. "All that really happened was I was dribbling the ball, someone came to defend me and, without any contact, when I was turning my knee popped and I just kinda fell."
Thomas said she underwent an MRI the following day, which revealed both a torn ACL and a torn meniscus. She said surgery to repair her knee has been scheduled for Jan. 21 in Jamestown.
"I know it ended my season, but I think this is just gonna make me a stronger player for next year and make me even more determined to do better," Thomas said. "I'm going to really stick to my physical therapy as much as I can and do everything that I need to do to get back to volleyball in August."
An outside hitter for Medina/Pingree-Buchanan volleyball last fall, Thomas is the younger sister of former University of Jamestown women's volleyball outside hitter Jordan Thomas, who helped lead the Jimmies to a program-record 33 match victories in 2019-20. The younger Thomas will also lose her freshman track and field season in the spring, where she would've competed in the sprint races, the long jump, and the 100-meter hurdles for MPB.
But coach Mack said Thomas, who'll turn only 15 in February, is much more than simply an athlete.
"She's a very mature 14 year old is what she is. Not just about the game, but about just life in general," Mack said. "She's so smart. She sees everything so well."
The cupboard isn't bare going forward this season for coach Mack and the Thunder, who should remain a viable threat with the likes of senior guard Brittney Reister and junior forward Ryleigh Martin. Martin produced 18 points and 13 rebounds in the team's 45-42 victory over Carrington, and added 18 more points in Monday's 42-37 win over Edgeley/Kulm/Montpelier in Medina to help the Thunder improve to 5-1.
The Thunder ultimately fell to LaMoure/Litchville-Marion, 46-35, following Thomas' injury.
"Initially when it happened they were shellshocked, and whether it's (Thomas) or anybody I think they'd probably react the same way," Mack said. "We really didn't get refocused in that LaMoure game until the fourth quarter and just ran out of gas at the end.
"Last night (against EKM) we had four or five different kids score that very rarely see the court, but now they have to. So probably the only positive coming out of this is that we should be a better team in the end for it."
The Thunder reached the semifinals of last year's Region 3 tournament in Jamestown, with the 5-foot-6 Thomas accounting for 28 points and 12 steals over the three tournament games as an eighth-grader. MPB placed fourth.
The season continues for the Thunder this Friday (Jan. 15) hosting Napoleon/Gackle-Streeter in Medina.
"The things we've accomplished in a short time, I feel really good about these gals," Mack said. "They go out and give 110% every night."
However she is able, Thomas plans to help.
"My role now is to just keep supporting them," Thomas said. "I think my team will do just fine without me and I know they're going to do well."
Jan. 11 at Medina
Medina/Pingree-Buchanan 42, Edgeley/Kulm/Montpelier 37
EKM 6 10 10 11 -- 37
MPB 13 13 10 6 -- 42
EKM -- Mataeya Mathern 12, Kiara Jangula 9, Emily Kinzler 6, Reagan Teske 5, Norah Entzi 5. Totals: 12 FG, 12-20 FT, 17 fouls. 3-pointers: Mathern.
MPB -- Ryleigh Martin 18, Isabel Schmidt 6, Gracie Gunderson 6, Kalen Kinzell 4, Brittney Reister 4, Lilly Bohl 2, Sophie Bhol 2. Totals: 19 FG, 6-11 FT, 15 fouls. 3-pointers: none.
Records: MPB 5-1. EKM 5-5.