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South Elgin's Savanah Uveges drives against Burlington Central's Kayla Ross on Thursday in Burlington. | Karen Naess ~ For Sun-Times Media
South Elgin junior guard Savanah Uveges has a message to deliver to some high-profile athletes: Adrian Peterson move over, Derrick Rose, pick up the pace.
The Storm’s star backcourt player made her return Thursday night from a torn anterior cruciate ligament faster even than Peterson and certainly quicker than Rose, accomplishing it in only 5-1/2 months. She not only returned against Burlington Central, but shook off some cobwebs early and delivered the crucial points and key rebounds at game’s end to secure a 44-41 nonconference victory for the Storm at Central.
“It’s really indescribable,” she said. “I’ve been out for so long, it’s really like half my life was torn away from me.”
Uveges scored a team-high 11 points, pulled down four rebounds and made two steals in her first action since undergoing knee surgery July 27. The injury occurred July 14. She started Thursday and played in brief spurts, probably less than she would have wanted because she got into foul trouble early.
“I’ve always kind of had habits to get into foul trouble pretty quick,” she said.
Coach Tim Prendergast saw how excited she was before the game and that she was easily winded.
“She hasn’t played since July and she’s in good shape, but she’s not in game shape,” he said. “You can’t practice game shape. Before the game I was like, ‘what did you have, six Red Bulls.’ She was off the charts. But it’s good to see the enthusiasm and excitement again from her.”
Uveges likes the comparisons to Peterson.
“I love Adrian Peterson,” she said. “He’s my biggest inspiration. Derrick Rose? I’ve been waiting for him. He’s been out for like eight months. Come on Derrick.”
Uveges put down a rebound bucket with 5:06 left after Central pulled ahead 37-36. Following a Central miss, Uveges drove the lane and hit a short jumper for a three-point edge, then grabbed the rebound after Central’s Shelby Holt missed a shot.
At the other end, Uveges capped it off with a driving hoop, drawing the foul first, and then completing the three-point play with 1:28 left to give the Storm enough points for the win.
“Down the stretch Uveges made some nice plays,” Central coach Mark Smith said. “She’s not a senior, but has a lot of experience. It showed.”
Central (15-4) played without star post player Alison Colby due to illness.
“She’s our leading rebounder,” Smith said. “That hurt a little bit.”
The Rockets got 15 points from Holt and nine from Sam Pryor. The Rockets had gone on a 15-2 run to close the first quarter up 18-10, and led by as many as nine. South Elgin quickly rallied and led 22-20 by halftime, then got a big three-pointer from Nell Wentling and the end of the third quarter for a 29-24 lead.
The fourth quarter was tightly fought until Uveges made her move.
“I think one thing I’ve said about not having Savanah was it allowed some of our other players to play more than they would have, like Delaney Kelleher and Nadia (Yang),” Prendergast said. “When you add Savanah to the mix, wow, we’ve got ball handlers. We’re more athletic.
“Obviously any time you add a good player to the mix it’s a total package.”
South Elgin (11-9), however, has most likely lost starting senior forward Amanda Behles to torn ankle ligaments following an injury she suffered against St. Edward.
For young Central, shooting 7-of-11 from the floor in the first quarter, then 10-of-35 the last three quarters was a matter of experience.
“I felt like we rushed it a few times,” Smith said. “It’s a learning, maturation process. It’s good to play in close games like this.”