CHAMPAIGN — Not many All-Area first-teamers would be considered for Comeback of the Year honors the following season.
Not many All-Area first-teamers are like Centennial’s Stacia Simmons. As a junior last season, the guard was hurt in the regional semis on Valentine’s Day and underwent surgery for a torn anterior cruciate ligament in April.
It’s not yet eight months later and she’s back in the lineup. In coach Susan Thomas’ opinion, she “seems to be the exact same player she was when she left the court last year.”
Simmons scored a game-high 13 points Thursday night as the sixth-ranked (Class 3A) Chargers (5-1) held Normal Community to five field goals and dispatched the Ironmen 62-20 in a Big 12 Conference contest.
“I’m as surprised as can be,” Thomas said. “I’m not surprised she’s back playing. I’m surprised she’s playing so well and with the rhythm she has.
“The other girls played 50 or 60 games (in the summer), and she didn’t have that benefit.”
Simmons wasn’t cleared to start training until mid-October. The comeback started gradually.
“At first, I was shooting around to get used to the feel of it,” Simmons said. “Then I worked on attacking, to get my confidence up. It hurt (sitting) out. I was hyped to get back.”
Thomas wasn’t sure how much of a contribution to expect from Simmons during the early-season games.
“I was concerned about fatigue,” she said. “What would the rigors of a two-hour practice be like?”
Those fears were soon put to rest. It was clear that the therapy and rehabilitation, the treadmill work and the weightlifting was a sterling success.
“Her conditioning is great,” Thomas said. “She could probably go three hours. That’s what I’m most proud of.
“That’s a tough surgery to rehab from. To make the sacrifices she did every day says a lot about who she wanted to be for our team.”
Chelsea Cross was the only other double-figure scorer against Normal. She had 12 points to go with a team-high six rebounds. For Simmons, there were more highlights than the points. She had three assists, one behind Katelynn Martinez and Chantal Meacham.
“I feel great about my comeback,” Simmons said. “My confidence is so high. I still have my game.”
Thomas is pleased.
“Tonight was her most complete game,” the coach said. “She penetrated with a purpose, had good shot selection and saw the post as well as she has.”