Claire Lock missed a good chunk of her freshman year with mononucleosis. A bout with appendicitis also cost her playing time, as did a broken finger last season.
So, when Lock suffered a knee injury during the first game of her senior girls basketball season, the Lee’s Summit guard couldn’t help having a “why me?” moment.
“It was literally the first game,” Lock said. “And it was fourth quarter, one minute left. I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’”
This setback cost Lock six games and left the Tigers without their top scorer and lone returning starter from last season’s state-tournament team.
But Lock is back in the lineup and, despite a little rust, managed to score 21 points during a 54-42 loss versus Liberty on Tuesday night at Lee’s Summit.
Lock hadn’t played in a game since Nov. 28, when she got tripped from behind on a fast break during the Tigers’ 57-53 loss to Oak Park during the first round of the Winnetonka Tournament. Her right knee took the brunt of the fall, and she knew right away that something was wrong.
“I landed on my knee and it, like, blew up,” Lock said. “It was huge.”
An MRI revealed bleeding behind the kneecap and a badly strained vastis medalis muscle, a part of the quadriceps that attaches to the knee. Initially, Lock thought she would be back after Lee’s Summit’s played at Raymore-Peculiar on Dec. 12. But when she tried to practice after that game, she aggravated the injury and found the pain too much to bear.
“I tried to come back too soon and then I hurt it again,” Lock said. “I was trying to push it and it was bad.”
After resting the knee during the holiday break, Lock was ready to go when the Tigers started the 2018 portion of their schedule. She admitted to feeling a little shaky shooting behind the three-point line, where she went 2 for 6, but she felt comfortable driving the lane and hitting finger rolls.
It was the kind of game Lee’s Summit expects from Lock, who averaged more than 15 points per game last season. Not being able to contribute those points as the Tigers got off to a 1-8 start made this latest injury all the more difficult for her.
“It’s hard watching my team struggle sitting on the bench,” said Lock, who has signed in November to play next year at UMKC. “We’re young; we don’t have a lot of talent, so I’m glad to be back and fulfilling that role.”
Lock’s absence and a spate of other injuries and illnesses have forced Lee’s Summit coach Jessica Crawford to cobble together a lineup of players with little or no varsity experience.
Some have responded well, such as senior guard Kate Lindstrom, who made four three-pointers and scored 19 points against Liberty after pumping in 17 points against Blue Springs before the break. Crawford said senior center Brooke Benton has grown stronger in the post and junior forward Eli Childs has made progress, too.
But Crawford also knew the Tigers were missing a leader without Lock.
“Claire is an exceptional player and the confidence that she brings the team when she is on the floor is what we lost while she was hurt,” Crawford said. “Without Claire playing, we had some girls that never have played at the varsity level play significant minutes. I believe this will help us down the stretch.”
Lock helped Lee’s Summit stick with Liberty (8-2) for a half. The Tigers led 7-6 after the first quarter and the teams traded the lead three times before the Blue Jays entered halftime up 24-22.
The Blue Jays opened the third quarter with three fast-break baskets for a 30-22 lead, and the Tigers would never draw closer.
Kayel Newland led Liberty with 20 points, while Jillian Fleming and Jordan Johnson finished with 12 points apiece.
“Third quarter is always our bad quarter,” Lock said. “We come out slow and they just take off right off the bat. That’s kind of what got us down, and we really couldn’t come back up from there.”
Lock is just happy she can now contribute to a Tigers turnaround, which she believes can happen if they continue to work hard. She’ll be even happier if there aren’t any more interruptions to her playing time.
“It’s always something,” Lock said. “I’m just hoping I can finish this stretch without injuries.”