CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Class AA No. 2 Wyoming East defeated No. 7 Lincoln 65-39 on Wednesday afternoon in the girls basketball quarterfinals.
The win, however, came after senior point guard and Youngstown State signee Gabby Lupardus left the game in the first half, suffering another injury to her already surgically repaired knee.
Lupardus missed the majority of last season with a torn ACL – the same knee she grabbed on Wednesday.
“For all intents and purposes, it doesn’t look good,” said Wyoming East coach Angie Boninsegna of the injury. “One thing about Gabby and her character, both times (with the injuries) when I’ve gotten over to her, she’s told me that she’s sorry. She has nothing to be sorry about.
“She’s an excellent leader and right now we’re going to go on the premise that we won’t have her on the court the rest of the tournament,” Boninsegna continued. “We’ll have her off the court, but not on the court. We’re going to keep her in our prayers and go forward.”
The injury Wednesday brought the Charleston Civic Center crowd to complete silence.
“I’m not usually speechless, but I am really proud of our girls with their effort after Gabby went down,” Boninsegna said. “Gabby is so much more than a playmaker. She’s our leader. The girls really stepped up. Today has been really emotional for all of us.”
Lupardus eventually came back out on the floor and sat behind the team bench, still encouraging her teammates along the way.
“I was inspired,” said Wyoming East center Emily Saunders. “She’s the leader on our team. After halftime, she was out there drawing up plays. She’s the best player, she’s an amazing leader and we look up to her. We want to play for her.”
The Warriors (21-3) certainly did play inspired without Lupardus on the floor.
Lupardus suffered the injury at the 4:31 mark of the second quarter with her team holding a slim 20-16 lead.
The Warriors dominated the rest of the way, outscoring Lincoln 45-23 in that span, specifically an 11-1 run to end the first half.
“We went through it last year, but we were able to refocus,” said Wyoming East junior Jazz Blankenship. “We know that Gabby wouldn’t want us to be sad – we’re going to keep going. Gabby wanted to be here just as much as we did.”
It was Blankenship who took over the spotlight, finishing with 23 points, four assists and four steals. She went 4 of 7 from 3 as well.
“I can’t say enough about her,” Boninsegna said. “We went from seven guards to three guards last year and she came over and played point for me. She’s really a shooting guard. She did whatever she had to do to help the team last year and she’s continued to do that this year.”
Saunders finished with 13 points, seven rebounds and five blocks for the Warriors. Lupardus scored seven points and collected four assists in 11 minutes of action.
Madi Martin led Lincoln (15-10) with nine points in the loss.
Wyoming East moves on to face No. 3 Wayne at 9:30 a.m. on Friday in the semifinals.
“We’re going to try to regroup and see what we’re going to do on offense,” Boninsegna said. “But we’ve always said that we need to play good defense and rebound. If we do those things, hopefully the offense will take care of itself.”