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Highlands basketball tandem on path to recovery

Michael Love
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Jack Fordyce | Tribune-Review
Highlands basketball team members Alexa Marasco (left) and Jaharee' Holt (right) sit for a portrait on Thursday, June 28, 2018 at Highlands High School in Natrona Heights.

Jaharee Holt went after a loose ball heading out of play.

She fell, landed awkwardly and felt a pop in her left knee.

At that moment in Highlands’ holiday girls basketball tournament game against Shady Side Academy, Holt’s season suddenly was over. A torn ACL and meniscus was the eventual diagnosis from the late-December accident.

A little more than a month later, teammate Alexa Marasco suffered the same fate as she went down with a torn right ACL early in a Section 1-4A game against Knoch. She had returned for seven games after missing a month recovering from an early-season ankle injury.

Now, the Golden Rams rising seniors continue the recovery process they hope will lead them back on the court in time for the start of the 2018-19 season.

“We both want to come back and help the team improve,” said Marasco, a starting guard.

“We want to prove that Highlands can win and has what it takes to be as good as the other teams. We want to show that our injuries and all that we have to go through to recover will not stop us.”

Holt and Marasco are expected to be key pieces in an otherwise young team that hopes to improve on last year’s 2-18 overall record and 2-10 mark in Section 1 play.

The team is under the direction of first-year coach and Highlands graduate Courtney Kordes, who was hired in April to replace Drew Jonczak, a coach with the Golden Rams for three seasons.

“I can’t wait to get back on the court and be able to play again,” said Holt, a 6-foot starting center. “Basketball is my life. It’s what I live to do. It’s been hard not being able to play the game. I bumped up my physical therapy sessions to four times a week instead of twice. Getting back is really motivating for me.”

Holt and Marasco rehab several times a week at the UPMC Centers For Rehab Services in Natrona Heights.

“It’s tough to not have them with us in workouts, but I know they are working hard to get back from those injuries and be ready,” Kordes said. “We will monitor their progress right up to the start of the season.”

They both said they wish they could be with their teammates on the court for summer workouts, but they are concentrating on taking the steps needed and are hoping to meet the recovery milestones that will help them be fully recovered in November.

“I was upset after the injury because I couldn’t do anything. I knew the process to recover was going to take so long, between six and ninth months,” Marasco said. “I started to wonder if I would be able to do it all in time to be ready for this upcoming season.

“After I got off the crutches six weeks after surgery, I was very motivated. It was a different feeling. I accepted the fact that (the injury) happened. I knew I couldn’t change what happened, but I could control how hard I work. I wanted to get better.”

Marasco and Holt said that while they wish they didn’t get injured in the first place, they are grateful they have each other for motivation and support.

“I know what she is going through, and she can relate to what I have to deal with,” Holt said. “We work with each other and push each other to go harder in rehab. We’ve been friends since we started playing basketball, and this has brought us closer together.”

Marasco said she counts on Holt for advice.

“Jaharee got hurt about a month before me, so she is ahead of me in the recovery process,” she said. “I can ask her if I am on schedule. We’ve been there for each other. It’s made it easier for both of us.”

Highlands graduated a number of seniors from the 2017-18 team, including Renee Cebula, a four-year starter and all-section performer who led the team in scoring at 16.1 points per game. She will play in college at Chatham.

“The seniors each year have been my role models and the leaders,” Holt said. “Now that I am a senior, I want to be that leader for the younger girls on the team. We have one more season, and we want to be as ready as we can be.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @Mlove_Trib.

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