NEW RICHMOND, W.Va. — Wyoming East girls basketball senior guard Gabby Lupardus has had a long climb back after an ACL tear ended her junior season in its opening weekend.

“It’s a great feeling to be back,” Lupardus said. “As soon as I found out that I had hurt my knee and it was going to be season ending, I immediately started looking forward to (this season). I’m back on the court with the girls who I’ve always been on the court with. It’s an overwhelming feeling.”

Now back and healthy, Lupardus has the Warriors eyeing another trip to the Civic Center for the state tournament in March — a venue where they captured the Class AA title in 2016.

“My knee is great now,” Lupardus said. “Most of the hard times were more mental than physical. Yeah, it physically hurt, but it was hard getting up everyday to do the exercises I had to do throughout the pain. But I had a good support system and they helped it through me a lot.”

Lupardus could only watch from the bench as her teammates went through the 2016-2017 season, ultimately coming up short of the state tournament with a loss to Bluefield in regional play.

“It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done,” Lupardus said. “I went to every game and practice that I could. All of them were super supportive throughout it and I tried to be supportive of them through the season, too.”

Matt Sunday,

Wyoming East senior Gabby Lupardus is back and healthy after missing last year with a torn ACL.

Lupardus was phenomenal as a sophomore, helping lead the the Warriors to that state title, averaging 14 points, seven assists, five rebounds and five steals per game.

She’s part of a very experienced senior class that includes Kara Sandy (also has battled injuries herself), Mesa Quesnberry and Allie Lusk.

6-foot-5 junior center Emily Saunders is also one of the state’s best players.

“I’ve been playing with Emily (Saunders) from way back when,” Lupardus said. “We’ve built such a good relationship from post to guard and you can’t really ask for more from a post. It’s a big blessing to deliver from a guard to a post at that high of a level.

“I couldn’t ask for a better team or better teammates to be playing with,” she continued. “We are a tight-knit family.”

Lupardus, meanwhile, has her college destination settled after signing with Youngstown State earlier this fall.

“The injury actually helped me in the recruiting process in that it made me realize what colleges were really after me and how serious to take them,” she said. “The players there were a lot like me and the coaches understood me.

“Their program fits me and when I hurt my knee, they were the first ones to reach out to me,” she continued. “They kept up with me throughout the (rehab) process. They like like the quick pace that I go at and the control that I have on the court.”

It was Fairmont Senior winning the Class AA title this past year – a pedestal Lupardus hopes to get Wyoming East back to one more time in her high school career.

“It would mean everything,” Lupardus said. “Having been to the state tournament and won a title, it helps take away some pressure. Just being there can be overwhelming.

“We lost my freshman year (at the tournament) – we didn’t know what to expect,” she continued. “We went back the next year with that experience in hand and we were calm on the court with every game. We knew what to do and we delivered.”

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