Lauren Sullivan

Lake Norman's Lauren Sullivan (center, wearing knee brace) encourages her team during Friday night's game. Sullivan, a senior who signed with Wingate, tore the ACL in her right knee during a Jan. 3 win over South Iredell.

MOORESVILLE—Vance girls basketball coach Donnell Rhyne offered an appropriate assessment after his Cougars, last year’s I-Meck Conference champions, defeated Lake Norman 61-43 on Friday night.

“You can’t predict injuries,” he said.

Lake Norman certainly never saw this one coming.

A season that started with so much promise hit a fairly big speedbump after the calendar turned to 2020.

“With what we had going it’s really unfortunate,” Lake Norman coach and former Wildcats player McKenzie Graham said.

Multi-dimensional standout Lauren Sullivan injured her right knee Jan. 3 in a 73-47 victory over South Iredell.

With her leg wrapped in a brace, she watched from the sideline Friday.

The Wingate signee learned the day before she’d torn her ACL. The Wildcats’ 63-55 loss Thursday to unbeaten West Rowan—their first following an 11-0 start—marked her second game being reduced to spectator since the setback.

Sullivan’s senior year is over.

When asked about the premature ending to a fantastic high school career, tears welled up in her eyes. No words were needed, but she mustered the strength to address the matter.

“It just kills me,” Sullivan said choking up. “This is my life. I love coming out here and playing (for Lake Norman).”

The Wildcats managed fine without their leader Tuesday, beating rival Mooresville 55-34 in Sullivan’s first absence in the lineup.

Freshman guard Kirsten Lewis-Williams scored 17 points and only turned the ball over a couple of times.

The final result was much closer during the teams’ meeting last month in the Iredell County Sports Hall of Fame Holiday Classic semifinals. Lake Norman proceeded to win the tournament title. Sullivan was named its MVP.

“We were kind of nervous going into the Mooresville game (Tuesday) and didn’t know what to expect,” Graham said. “They showed they still have the potential to be good. I don’t think this has affected them that much, or at least they haven’t told me or showed me it has. It’s next up, next man up.”

Sullivan’s 16 points a game no doubt would have made a difference in an eight-point loss to West Rowan.

The same goes for the loss to Vance, a threat to repeat as conference champs.

“And that’s not taking into account her five or six assists a night, her six or seven rebounds or her four or five steals,” Graham said. “But we’re going to keep playing. We’re not going to hang our heads. Lauren has kind of taken on a little bit of a coaching role, which I think is good for everyone else.”

Sullivan feels it’s important to do what she can even though it’s in a limited capacity.

The season may be lost for her, but there are still attainable goals for her teammates.

“I’m going to be a big supporter from the bench,” Sullivan said.

GAME RECAP

Vance 61, Lake Norman 43

MOORESVILLE—Tanajah Hayes and Trinity Moreland pumped in 19 points apiece Friday as Vance handed Lake Norman its first I-Meck Conference loss, 61-43.

The Wildcats were without leading scorer Lauren Sullivan. The senior recently tore the ACL in her right knee.

Hayes also had nine steals, and Moreland pulled down 10 rebounds.

The Cougars (11-4, 3-2) opened the game on a 16-3 run.

Kirsten Lewis-Williams banked in a jumper to cap a 9-2 run in the second quarter as Lake Norman drew within 29-23 at halftime.

But Vance scored 14 of the first 15 points in the third quarter to pull away for good.

Madison Saunders scored nine points to lead Lake Norman (11-2, 4-1). Lewis-Williams supplied eight points and three assists. Jazmine Lowe and Ellie Erwin added eight points apiece for the Wildcats.

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