Say you’re a college basketball player. You play in a bigtime conference, maybe the nation’s best, and you’re the leading scorer and rebounder on your team.
You go through months of workouts, practices, 29 regular-season games. Your team wins 21 of those, guaranteeing a trip to the NCAA Tournament. With two minutes left in the conference tournament opener, a 12-point loss, you collide with an opposing player. The pain in your right knee is like nothing you’ve ever felt before.
That’s what happened to Alex Montgomery, Tech’s 6-1 sophomore.
When the Jackets lost 69-50 to top-seeded Oklahoma in the NCAA’s second round Tuesday night, Montgomery wasn’t in Iowa with the team. She watched on ESPN2 from her dorm room.
It made sense for Montgomery to stay behind. She has a dislocated kneecap, and is still on crutches. But it didn’t make it easier.
When Tech closed the first half on a 21-11 run, Montgomery started crying.
“I just wanted to be out there and I couldn’t,” she said in a phone interview just after the game ended. “We’re known for coming back and I just wanted to be a part of that. We tied the score up 29-29 and the second half is our time. I was like, ‘Man, I wish I could be a part of that.’ It was just a few tears. I don’t really cry like that.”
As Oklahoma took control, Montgomery found herself talking to the TV.
“I was just telling them, ‘Don’t give up, keep fighting hard, don’t worry about the score.’”
Montgomery watched Tech’s first-round win over Iowa — on Iowa’s home floor — with friends, and of course got a call from the lockerroom immediately afterward. “I was so proud of them I was speechless,” she said.
She watched the Oklahoma game by herself so she could break it down more. She also knew what was at stake: Tech’s women were trying to make the Sweet 16 for the first time.
Would Tech have made history with Montgomery? Hard to say. The announcers kept talking about how much she was missed. “We’ll never know,” Montgomery said.
Montgomery averaged 13.7 points and 6.7 rebounds. She’s also the team’s hardest worker, a true gym rat.
Montgomery hit 72 three-pointers this season, or 59 percent of Tech’s total. Without Montgomery slashing and spreading the floor Tuesday, Tech shot a horrific 27 percent.
When the injury occurred, Montgomery’s first thought was “Lord, don’t let this be a serious injury.”
Now she’s focused on rehabbing (she doesn’t need surgery), and helping Tech make a fourth straight NCAA appearance. The Jackets lose one senior starter, point guard Jacqua Williams, from this 22-10 team.
“We have a great class coming in and our team works so hard,” Montgomery said, adding that the biggest challenge will be replacing Wiliams’ leadership.
Montgomery plans to be back on the court in a month or so.
“I can’t wait.”