By Eric Wade
NEVADA -- Mikayla Bartlett was the Nevada Lady Tigers varsity basketball squad's leading scorer and one of its primary ball-handlers. She finished last season with a team-high 331 points and averaged 12 per game.
A 5-foot-6-inch guard, Bartlett had 23 3-pointers last season, while averaging five rebounds and two assists per game. She finished the year with 59 assists and made nearly 49 percent of her field-goal attempts as a freshman while playing for a Nevada Lady Tigers team that has been coached by her father, Brent Bartlett, for the last 15 years leading up to the 2012-'13 season.
In the second quarter of a 42-26 loss to the Chicks of Pleasant Hill High School in the championship game of the Class 4, District 13 tournament, the younger Bartlett went down with a knee injury. No one could have known at the time of the injury just how bad it was and she attempted to re-enter the game in the second half, but was eventually forced to head back to the bench in tears when the pain proved to be just too much to handle.
When Mikayla was able to seek proper medical attention, the news about the injury wasn't good. According to the elder Bartlett, she ended up with a torn ACL and lateral meniscus that ultimately required surgery.
Since the injury, Bartlett has had a second meniscus repair surgery and has stress fractured her tibia twice. "She's had all kinds of setbacks," the elder Bartlett said prior to the beginning of this basketball season.
Hopes were high leading into the season that Mikayla would be able to return, but that was before the second stress fracture in her tibia was diagnosed. Her father and coach still says his hopes are very high for her return, but when that return could happen is still unknown.
"She's doing a lot better now," the elder Bartlett said. "It's just patience and healing up and then, after that, we'll get her back."
Mikayla's absence and the impact it has had on this year's Lady Tigers squad hasn't been hard to see thus far. As las year's leading scorer and one of the leading rebounders, her father and coach called Mikayla a "missing link," without which the team simply isn't the same.
"First of all, these girls all just love each other and get along great. That's what makes it special for me to coach them," the elder Bartlett said. "However, you know, they feed off each other, she's just kind of a missing link to what we have. However, the other girls have to step up and they'd doing that in her absence."
In Mikayla's absence, the Lady Tigers have had to find other ways to create success and have done so with a number of other players stepping up to fill Mikayla's shoes. Among those stepping up noticeably have been this year's leading scorer, Tori Dahmer, as well as Morgan McNeley, Rilie Good, Ashley Shumaker and Kelsey McCall.
Those five players, along with the rest of the team, have created a much-improved squad that the elder Bartlett said will simply be that much better when Mikayla is finally able to make her return. "They're getting better which, when she comes back, should help our team," he said.
The Lady Tigers currently hold a 4-3 record on the season and are scheduled to be back in action on Dec. 17, when they take on the Lady Bobcats of Drexel in the opening round of the Harrisonville Holiday Tournament. Tipoff is scheduled for 5 p.m., in the auxiliary gym at Harrisonville High School.