SAINT JOHNS – Prior to tearing her ACL this past summer, Summer Ward was a key contributor for the DeWitt girls basketball team as it made its way to the Breslin Center last season.
Post-ACL tear, Ward, now a senior, has slowly worked her way back to the player Panthers coach Bill McCullen thought she had the chance to become. And on Friday night, DeWitt needed every bit of Ward it could get. And she delivered.
With her team trailing the red-hot St. Johns Redwings, who came into Friday night having won eight straight games, 30-29, at the end of the third quarter, the senior scored all 10 of DeWitt’s fourth-quarter points as it edged St. Johns, 39-38.
“To be honest, she’s not 100 percent yet,” said McCullen, whose team is ranked No. 5 in Class A. “She’s not completely back, physically, but I think mentally she is. She’s playing like she did before the injury.
“We knew if we were going to do some significant things this year we were going to need her to really come back and take a step up for us.”
With the win, the Panthers (14-1, 6-1) knock the Redwings (12-3, 5-2) out of the three-way tie for first place in the CAAC Red. For St. Johns, which received Class A votes in the recent Associated Press rankings, it’s the team’s first defeat since losing to DeWitt on Dec. 18.
After giving up their lead in the early moments of the fourth quarter, the Redwings nearly snatched the victory away in the end. St. Johns forced a DeWitt turnover with less than a minute to go, but was unable to convert on its two layup attempts following the steal. Then, with just seconds left, the Redwings had an opportunity to take the last shot, however, a turnover handed the ball right back to the Panthers.
Ward finished with a game-high 17 points. Senior Jessica Hafner and junior Jamie Carroll each scored a team-high 11 points for St. Johns.
Contact James L. Edwards III at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JLEdwardsIII.