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Mundelein Maggie Mahar blocks a shot against Lake Forest during the game on November 29, 2012. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
Mundelein’s girls basketball team needed a basket to win its first game of the season.
The Mustangs got one from an unlikely — but not necessarily surprising — source.
In Mundelein’s NSC Lake Division opener against Lake Forest Nov. 29, sophomore Maggie Mahar drilled a three-pointer in the game’s final minute. The shot provided the winning margin in the Mustangs’ 40-38 win, and gave them their first victory after an 0-5 start.
Here’s where the unlikely factor comes in. Mahar, who scored a game-high 18 points, had never before played a varsity conference game. In fact, she missed her entire freshman season with an injury.
“She brings some leadership to the team although this is only her sixth varsity game,” Mundelein coach Brian Evans said. “Sitting on the bench last year, you knew she had some qualities but it’s hard to be a leader when you are not on the floor.”
Mahar wasn’t on the bench voluntarily.
On Oct. 31, 2011 — the opening day of freshman practice — Mahar was performing a seemingly innocuous slide drill when her body got ahead of her.
“My knee ended up straight and my left ankle was facing out,” Maher said. “I (was lying) on the ground and thought I could get back up. But no.”
She had broken her left ankle. She had surgery at Condell Medical Center in Libertyville and was told she would miss the entire season. Told she could not play basketball and would be on crutches for several weeks, Mahar was not in high spirits.
Until she was paid a visit by. Mundelein’s varsity team — of which Maher was not yet a member — stopped by her hospital room the day after her surgery.
“It was amazing. I didn’t want to expect anything,” Maher said. “It was cool to have everyone there for me.”
A winter trip to California that season further solidified Mahar’s relationship with her teammates. She resumed basketball workouts in March, playing her summer basketball with the AAU Illinois Elite.
When preseason practice started in October, Mahar was back to full strength, her ankle completely healed. She had developed a laser-quick release on her jump shot, with range from 10 feet all the way to the three-point line. Now, Mahar brings a scoring element to Mundelein, a young team that features just four senior varsity players.
“It’s nice to have her back. She’s obviously one of our best shooters, so that helps a lot,” senior guard Emily Panitch said. “She’s aggressive on defense, and that’s what we focus on.”
Asked before the season who they would want to have take a last-second shot, the Mustangs’ almost-unanimous answer was Mahar. So when she took — and made — the game-winner against Lake Forest, it was no surprise.
“That tells you what the girls think of her. Low and behold, it happens,” Evans said. ~.