Hard Luck Woman

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River Rat

By Peter W. Zubaty, Sports Editor

Life plays cruel tricks sometimes, as Bardstown star forward Daizah Kimberland is finding out way too soon.

Friday night started out innocently enough, however.

Just three nights prior, the senior torched Washington County and its stable of taller defenders for a career-high 37 points, just one more in a long list of accolades for Kimberland.

Known for her big smile and effervescent personality off the court and fierce passion and determination on the court, she was well on her way to another monster game against rival Nelson County, hitting a short jumper to tie the score at 29-apiece with less than four minutes to go in the third quarter.

After a rebound of a Nelson County miss at the other end — her 10th of the game to go with 15 points — Kimberland went up for the go-ahead jumper in what had already been a back-and-forth thriller, but was blocked by the Cardinals’ taller Cierra Drake.

Nelson County started the fast break the other way and had the numbers advantage. That advantage came partially because Kimberland was still on the baseline, and something was definitely wrong.

The raucous crowd at Cardinal Gym got very quiet as play stopped and coaches and trainers attended to Kimberland, who was clutching her left knee. After several minutes of delay, she was carried to the Bardstown bench and joined by her parents, who tried their best to console the despondent Tiger standout while tending to the ice packs on her knee.

Watching it all unfold, I felt alternately like hurling and crying.

Hadn’t this poor girl dealt with enough injury troubles? After all, she had already missed her entire sophomore season with a right knee injury: a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered in her team’s final scrimmage before the beginning of the regular season.

It just didn’t seem fair.

Injuries are part of the game. It’s one of the risks of competition, and a big part of what makes sports so compelling. But writing about them is one of the worst parts of this wonderful job.

“It happens in sports all the time,” David Kimberland, Daizah’s father, said with a sigh of resignation. He’d been down this road before.

Nelson County was able to take advantage when the leading Bardstown scorer checked out with 2:49 remaining in the third quarter, as the shell-shocked remaining Tigers battled hard the rest of the way but couldn’t muster enough firepower to keep pace with the Cardinals’ 23-12 finishing run.

While happy with the win, Nelson County coach Kelly Wood extended his sympathies to Kimberland.

“I hate it — I pray that everything is OK,” he said. “I love her energy. She’s a great ambassador of the game.”

David Kimberland was surprisingly optimistic Saturday morning, saying trainers thought it might be just a hyperextension, but that it was difficult to say for sure. He said Daizah would go to a local doctor Saturday morning, but that they would later take her to the University of Louisville — where she went as a sophomore for her prior knee injury — to have their sports medicine specialists do a more extensive examination.

“It stiffened up on her (and) it’s swollen, but not as I’ve seen with the other knee,” David Kimberland said. “We really don’t know. … All we can do is pray.”

Understandably, Daizah’s spirits were still sagging Saturday morning, the uncertainty of the remainder of her senior season as well as a future college career weighing heavily.

“She’s taking it really hard,” David Kimberland said. “That’s basically because she worked so hard with her other knee” to get back to full strength and speed.

When I tracked down Tiger coach Paul Stone after the game, he informed me that the evening had yet one more cruel, ironic and bittersweet twist:

“Daizah became the all-time leading scorer tonight,” he said, eclipsing 1990’s star Alicia Raley’s 1,591 career point total. Stone looked like he was ready to hurl as well; breaking records is supposed to be a happy occasion.

It would be a shame for such a magnificent career to end on such a sour note, so here’s hoping Kimberland gets good news from the doctors and she’s back soon to add to her school-record 1,602 points.


Peter W. Zubaty can be reached at 348-9003 Ext. 115 or by e-mail at pzubaty@kystandard.com.