ANACONDA — If there's anything that Makena Patrick has realized about herself since being thrust into a relatively sedentary lifestyle these past weeks, it's this:
"I've learned that I don't want to be lazy anymore," the Anaconda junior guard said with a laugh. "I'm tired of being lazy. It's frustrating for sure."
Patrick was averaging a double-double for the Copperheads' girls basketball team this season before an awkward fall while crashing the boards against Deer Lodge on Jan. 6 brought her breakout season to an agonizing halt.
"I shot the ball and went to follow my shot, got the rebound and came down on it wrong," she said. "I just kind of got a little nudge on the way up, came down on it wrong and felt the pop."
That "pop" — the unmistakable sound of her left ACL, MCL and PCL simultaneously tearing — is a sound that every athlete dreads and Patrick knew immediately that her season outlook was not promising.
"I knew right away," she said. "I grabbed my knee right away and it was painful, really painful."
The feeling of her left knee blowing out was still second fiddle to the frustration of watching her junior season — one in which she was hoping to guide a promising Copperheads squad to Class B state tournament berth — end in such an unceremonious way.
"I mean, I had been looking forward to my junior season," said Patrick, who was averaging roughly 23 points and nine rebounds per game at the time of her injury. "And I worked hard this summer, put in the hours, so it's definitely frustrating having to be out now."
She may be sidelined, but Patrick is still determined to be a positive force for an Anaconda team that's established itself as one of the best in the Western B, has rolled to an 8-1 start to the season and is currently ranked No. 4 in the MontanaSports.com high school girls Class B rankings.
"I'm there for support and whatever they need, there to cheer them on," she said. "I mean, they'll be fine without me, it's a team sport so they'll do good and I will be right on the sideline."
She'll undergo surgery in early February at the Community Hospital of Anaconda to repair the damage and then begin months of rehab and physical therapy, all with the goal of being ready to roll for her senior season next winter.
In the meantime — despite all the heartache and frustrations that 2023 has brought Patrick — she knows that she has a host of people in her corner supporting her and encouraging her as she begins the long process of shedding the brace that currently encases her left leg.
It started with her teammates ensuring that, in the days following her injury, she never felt alone.
"We all took turns visiting her," said junior Maniyah Lunceford, who stepped up in Patrick's absence against Butte Central last week and turned in a game-high 23-point performance.
"It looked like a party was going on at her house, which unfortunately it really wasn't," Lunceford continued. "We carry her books sometimes; sometimes we make her do it herself.
"I think just keeping her in the circle is an important part."
Prior to that game against the Maroons, Central's PA announcer gave a shout out to Patrick, wishing her a speedy recovery. Even a seemingly small gesture like that was quite touching to her.
"I didn't know that they were going to announce me like that," she said. "I've had so much support from everyone. My team, family, friends ... even my community.
"It's nice that people have my back and I'm not alone in this."