The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Sports

April 6, 2014

ENE's All-Northwest Girls Basketball Team

POND CREEK, Okla. — The story of Jade Jones’ senior season, the highlights including a rare scoring benchmark and a Class A state title, started with a single step at the end of her junior year.

Then a pop.

Then a fall.

Jones, a potent junior for Pond Creek-Hunter — then a game short of the 2013 state tournament — was slowed by a left knee injury in the regional round’s consolation final against Velma-Alma, but still fast enough to get a steal and race down the floor for an easy layup.

Or what should have been one, anyway. Jones’ ailing knee  buckled on the way up, and what had been a tweak became a torn ACL.

“It was the worst pain I’ve ever been through,” Jones said. “I went down. Losing the game went through my head, not making it to state. I didn’t know that it was torn at the time. I still think about it.”

Jones returned and finished with 16 points in a PC-Hunter win, but with their star hobbled, the Lady Panthers fell short of their first-ever state tournament win, falling to Cheyenne-Reydon 51-41 in the quarterfinal round. Jones had nine points. In the week after, Jones received the diagnosis on her left knee.

“She knew what was ahead of her as far as her rehab and how long her recovery would be,” said PC-Hunter head coach Tasha Diesselhorst. “We told her we didn’t know how it happened, but God was gonna use her story to make something special. I’m glad he proved me right.”

Something special did happen, and it culminated in Jones being named the Enid News & Eagle 2014 Northwest Oklahoma girls basketball player of the year in voting by area coaches.

But, it looked dicey at first.

After an offseason of rehab and through most of her senior season, Jones said she wasn’t the same. She scored 22.1 points per game, and shot 43 percent from three, with team highs in assists (5.5) and steals (4.2) as the Lady Panthers finished their regular season undefeated, but Jones still felt short of her own full speed.

“I’d done everything I could, I worked so hard, but I wasn’t close to 100 percent,” she said. “I wasn’t as fast.”

She returned to form just in time. With PC-Hunter a loss from elimination and a loss from a second straight state tournament in the area consolation finals vs. Coyle, Jones let loose. The knee was sturdy. When she reached for it — she’d rarely needed to in a seldom-contested regular season — her speed and shiftiness was right where it’d always been.

“I was doing everything,” said Jones, who scored 30 in a 58-48 win.  “I felt fast. We were playing against fast girls and doing whatever I wanted. It was the best feeling, ever.”

Up till then, anyway.

Jones scored 58 points in the state tournament, including another 30-point game against Cheyenne-Reydon in the semis, eclipsing 2,000 career points along the way to finish with 2,029. The Lady Panthers won their first state title, edging Seiling 32-30.

“That’s what winning a state championship is all about, just standing there in those final seconds and watching your girls celebrate,” Diesselhorst said. “Especially Jade and her story and all she’s been through.”

Jones will continue her basketball career at Southwestern Oklahoma State next season. SWOSU finished 19-11 in 2013-14, upsetting Harding in the Great American Conference Tournament final before losing to Emporia State in an NCAA II Regional.

Jones likely will major in education, in the hopes of coaching one day, perhaps with Diesselhorst.

“I’m ready for a challenge,” she said. “I’m gonna have to work for it.”

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