LONGMONT -- Ella Fallon's one shot at a successful senior basketball season with the Longmont Trojans was nearly derailed by a car accident. But she's determined not to let anything stand between her and a chance to help pull the once-dominant program out of its current lull.
At forward, Fallon stands as the lone senior of the Trojans roster this season. A four-year varsity player, she's been through two of the Trojans' best seasons in recent history and one of their worst.
For the Trojans' elder stateswoman, the 2013 season is all about getting a fresh start. And she's willing to do whatever it takes to make sure she's a big part of it.
"My schedule's pretty busy but I'm doing everything I can to get myself healthy and back out on the court 100 percent," Fallon said. "I've balanced it well. That's just my focus right now. If I can't hang out with my friends, that's just what I'm gonna choose to do because I'm here to play basketball."
Driving in the Longmont High School parking lot two months ago, Fallon's car was hit on the left side. The accident left Fallon -- who also missed time last year with an ankle injury and played through the pain for the remainder of the season -- with whiplash in her neck and lateral whiplash in her back.
When the Trojans began open gyms this offseason, Fallon wasn't able to participate in simple layup drills without her back hurting. She's still in the process of physical therapy to re-strengthen the muscles on her right side.
On top of school and practice, Fallon goes to exercise therapy three times a week, visits the chiropractor twice a week and goes in for a weekly massage. The Trojans will need the 6-foot-1 forward, who says she's currently around 80-percent strength, if they hope to improve on last year's five-win season.
Her personal struggle aside, Fallon said the Trojans have gotten over last year and they're just focusing on playing basketball.
"I feel like we have a different energy this year," said Fallon, who averaged six points per game as a junior. "Some of the things are the same but we've really started over. We're excited for a new, fresh start."
In 2012, the Trojans struggled through a 5-19 campaign and a 59-45 first-round playoff loss to Cheyenne Mountain. Longmont High parted ways with nine-year head coach Jay Darien (152-80 record) after the season.
Last year's roster included one senior, a junior, five sophomores and three freshmen. Fallon said the Trojans are still young. But after their experiences last year, their youth matters very little. Young players learned quickly from repeatedly having to deal with the pressure of game situations.
"We know each others' strengths now so I don't think age is going to be a factor this year. We've learned to work as a team," Fallon said. "Just getting out on the court really helped our young players grow because playing in a game is very different from playing in practice."
Returning with Fallon will be the sharpshooting Schell twins, Anna (9.9 points per game) and Kathryn (7.1 ppg), who led the Trojans (37.9 ppg) in scoring last season as sophomores. Two-sport athletes Dailyn Johnson, Lacy Haddock and Lyndie Haddock, will also be back.
Focusing on man-to-man defense under new head coach Mike Knaus, as they get into basketball shape and get a core group ready after a volleyball playoff run, Knaus said the Trojans should have good depth this season.
"I think the main thing we're working against is getting that confidence at a high level," Knaus said. "This summer, I say a lot of growth with their defense and how they felt about playing the game. They're getting a lot better and so much of it is just confidence and how they take the court."
Some of the Trojans' 2012 struggles resulted from having to play out the second year of home-and-away agreements with several top-level teams from 3A to 5A that were set while the Trojans were playing in back-to-back state title games in 2010 and 2011, finishing second to Broomfield each time. Playing an easier non-conference schedule in 2013, Knaus said the Trojans will be looking to win some games early to build confidence for the tough home-and-away Northern Conference schedule. The Trojans will play more games inside the St. Vrain School District this season.
"Erie, Frederick, Skyline, Mead, everyone's 4A now so it's a nice mix," Knaus said. "They're in another league but we can still cross and play them non-conference and it's good for us. There should be a lot of good games in those type of games."
Trying to heal as quickly and effectively as possible, Fallon hopes her inside-outside post game and mid-range jump shot will help the Trojans have a fun, successful season her senior year.
The Trojans took their lumps last year, and Fallon has certainly taken a few of her own since then. But the senior forward thinks both she and the Trojans have what it takes to bounce back.
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