Twice Makayla Lancaster has had to sit on the bench while Lynden Christian won a state title.
After blowing out her knee in last year’s Hardwood Classic quarterfinal for the Lyncs’ girls’ basketball team, the competitive 5-foot-4 guard couldn’t be on the court when her team played for the trophy. The recovery time was nine months so when the Lyncs’ volleyball team took home the title in the fall, Lancaster was once again on the bench.
“All I want is to play in a championship game,” Lancaster said in a phone interview.
She may get that chance, as the Lyncs are back in the Hardwood Classic. They’ll face Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls) on Thursday, March 5, at the Yakima SunDome in a Class 1A quarterfinal contest.
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But the road back to the quarterfinal hasn’t been an easy one for the senior, who wanted to play so badly that when she blew her knee out, she tried to get up and walk. She fell to the ground quickly, though, and trainers and coaches encircled her.
They told her that the whole knee was gone.
“I tried thinking he was wrong,” Lancaster said.
Another trainer on the sideline gave her the same diagnosis. Still, Lancaster didn’t want it to be true. When Lancaster got to a doctor in Yakima, no exams needed to be conducted.
The knee was done.
She had torn her ACL, MCL and meniscus, “basically my whole knee,” Lancaster quipped.
“It felt like a dream, I didn’t think it could be real.”
Lancaster had surgery and nine months of rehab awaited. Tearing a knee for any athlete presents an arduous road to recovery. Still, Lancaster had no doubts she would get back on the court to play her final season with the Lyncs.
“With me, I knew I was going to be back. Others may have had doubts but I’m so dedicated and determined to play basketball,” Lancaster said. “I tried to get myself back on the court as soon as possible. You can ask (coach) Brady (Bomber), I begged him to go back in, maybe even a few weeks ahead of schedule.”
Despite Lancaster’s best attempts at coercing the coaches to let her play, the Lyncs stuck to the timeline for her return, which had her back on the court for the Cloud 9 Christmas Classic, although with a minutes restriction while she got her legs and rhythm back.
Unfortunately, that timeline coincided with the toughest part of LC’s schedule — a four-game stretch against some of the best schools in the state from all classifications. With their star point guard still not back in the full swing of things, the Lyncs struggled, losing three of four.
“It wasn’t ideal playing against the best teams in state,” Bomber said in a phone interview. “We had a plan for how much we wanted to play her. We knew those games didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Those were preseason games for us and for her.”
Still, it was tough for a player who loves to win and hates to lose.
“It was a combination of frustration about the team not doing well and a frustration with the minute restriction,” Bomber said. “We knew that conversation wasn’t going to be easy, but we understood what we wanted to do for the long term.”
Lancaster trusted her coaches, though, and although, it was difficult for her to not play as much as she was accustomed to, she worked through it.
Eventually Lancaster returned to full strength and was back leading the team as she had the previous year.
Lancaster, who is averaging 4.4 points per game, is marked as one of the better perimeter defenders in the league and an elite point guard. Having her at the helm helped the Lyncs to an undefeated Northwest Conference season and the division title.
“She’s been incredible, just a warrior out there,” Bomber said. “Her last two games have been her best two as floor general for us all season. ... I’m proud of her.”
Going into the her final games with the Lyncs, Lancaster said the fact her time in high school basketball is ending has sunk in and she’s not ready to let it go.
Last year, she took Yakima for granted.
After finding out it could end in just minutes of being on the court, her mentality is different this time around.
“It was really hard. I really wanted to be a part of it,” Lancaster said of having to sit out most of last year’s tournament. “It made me realize this doesn’t happen. Being in state doesn’t happen for everyone. ... I have to give 110 percent every game, because it could be my last.”
And she’s hoping that her final minute on the high school hardwood is in a championship game, something Lancaster has twice been a part of but never got to play in.
“I’m very determined to get my team up and excited and energetic and play our game, not get nervous about who may be our competition,” Lancaster said. “I’m just determined to play in a championship game.”