COLUMBIA — There was less than 10 seconds left to play. The Rock Bridge girls basketball team was about to close out a regular season victory Jan. 23 at rival Hickman when it happened.
The Bruins' Sophie Cunningham brought the ball upcourt against a press and collided with Kewpies senior Jade Holly. The Hickman point guard was hit in the nose and right away knew she had been hurt badly.
Rock Bridge (20-5)
vs. Hickman ( 22-4)
WHEN: 5 p.m.
WHERE: Hickman High School
“I felt really funny afterwards, like I couldn’t focus, and my nose got really swollen,” Holly said. “I couldn’t see, and the light started bothering me. I knew instantly something was wrong because I never felt like that before.”
Some quick tests by the Hickman trainer and a visit to the doctor the next day confirmed that Holly had suffered a concussion, and she was sidelined.
The late injury was a disappointment especially in a well-played game that was close until the fourth quarter when Rock Bridge pulled away for a 46-34 victory.
"We had a really competitive game with the former state champions, a team that has only lost to very good teams in the country, and we were right there in the hunt," Hickman coach Tonya Mirts said. "It was a disappointment and a little bit of fearfulness for her (Holly) and her health."
The following days were tough for Holly. Her concussion symptoms lasted more than a week.
“I had a constant migraine every day, all day,” Holly said. “I was sensitive to the light and sound, and there were days when I was nauseous and dizzy.”
Being at school was difficult for Holly because she had a hard time focusing and a shaky memory. Completing everyday tasks were a challenge.
“When I first got back to driving it was really weird,” Holly said. “I couldn’t focus directly with what was in front of me and had to look around all the time.”
Before she could return to the court, Holly had to follow the Columbia Public Schools concussion protocol, which required her to feel symptom-free for three days. Holly started to feel better on Feb. 2 when she traveled with the team to Kansas City for a game against Lincoln Prep.
“Sitting watching that game, I was good and had no headaches, so we counted that as day one,” Holly said. “That’s when I knew things were starting to get better progressively.”
After three days of no concussion symptoms, Holly took part in three days of exercises that increased in intensity each day. After that, she was still symptom-free and was able to practice with the team. She returned to game action on Feb. 13 at Southern Boone. She had missed five games.
In addition to the school's concussion protocol, Hickman took other steps to make sure Holly was completely healthy.
"The concussion was monitored regularly, her parents were well informed of the protocol, our athletic trainer Stefanie West was involved with her daily," Mirts said. "She had been to an eye doctor, had a CT scan done, and she had been to a regular doctor. We went through several steps to make sure she wasn’t on the court until she was ready to be on the court."
Holly has overcome several severe injuries during her high school career. She tore her right ACL her freshman season and left ACL her junior season. After her sophomore season, she dislocated her shoulder and tore her labrum. The earlier injuries took a long time to heal. The concussion was more serious, but recovery was shorter.
“My concern was the lasting symptoms because I didn’t know if it was going to last until districts or longer," Holly said. “I think all my injuries have helped me and made me a stronger person. It goes to show that I can get through anything with just hard work.”
Holly and Hickman get a chance for revenge against Rock Bridge in the Class 5, District 9 tournament final at 5 p.m. Saturday at Hickman.
“I’m excited to play them again,” Holly said. “I’m happy to get a second chance because I think we are very prepared and the game will be a lot better.”