Soroco Rams’ Briana Peterson back on court full speed after pair of knee surgeries | SteamboatToday.com

Soroco Rams’ Briana Peterson back on court full speed after pair of knee surgeries

Ben Ingersoll

Soroco High School junior Briana Peterson blew out her right knee during her freshman and sophomore seasons on the Rams' girls basketball team. A promising young star, Peterson is back on court this winter stronger than ever with her eyes set on a deep state playoff run.

— No one would have blamed Soroco High School junior Briana Peterson if she came into the 2014-15 basketball season a step or two slower.

It even would have been understandable if she took the whole year off, or hung up her basketball sneakers for longer than that.

In the span of a calendar year, Peterson suffered more serious injuries than most prep athletes go through in their entire careers.

On Feb. 26, 2013, in the Rams’ district playoff game against Rangely, Peterson blew out her right knee in the first quarter of the eventual six-point loss. She was a budding young star who spent the previous 19 games leading Soroco in scoring as a freshman (nine points per game).

The Rams’ season was eliminated anyway, so Peterson went under the knife at The Steadman Clinic in Vail, where doctors sucked out the torn anterior cruciate ligament, removed a chunk of her hamstring, drilled tunnel holes in her femur and tibia and threaded the hamstring graft through.

"The first time I tore my ACL I didn’t really know what was going on," Peterson said. "I could run and walk and it all seemed pretty fine until I went to the doctors and found out I had to have that surgery. It was just a big pop. I could kind of hear it."

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The second time, though, Peterson knew instantly what had happened.

In the middle of her sophomore season, she was leading the Rams in scoring, averaging 16 points per game through seven contests. Soroco was heading into one of the biggest games of its young season at Class 2A powerhouse Paonia, and Peterson was coming off 25- and 24-point performances.

Then it happened all over again against the Eagles.

The pop. But the pain this time was worse than the one 326 days prior. The restructured knee had collapsed yet again.

"When I hit the floor I knew what happened," Peterson said. "It felt the same way but hurt a little more. I was just trying to keep myself together for the team."

Working her way back to basketball

After enduring a pair of completely rebuilt knees, Greg Peterson was a bit surprised by his daughter’s attitude through the whole ordeal.

Briana Peterson underwent a major surgery and took on months of rigorous rehabilitation only to have it happen all over — another repaired knee, another lengthy comeback. This time doctors took a sliver of her patellar tendon to reconnect the femur and tibia.

She sat on the bench for the Rams’ final 16 games last winter, watching her team battle its way through the district tournament and into the 2A regional playoffs, only to be eliminated by nemesis Meeker.

"That was rough," Briana Peterson said. "Definitely knowing I could have maybe helped them make it farther hurt. I wanted to be out there all the time. It’s hard to sit back and watch."

Greg and Stephanie Peterson switched Briana’s rehab team with hopes of avoiding another trip to the surgeon. This time, the soon-to-be junior signed up with Howard Head Sports Medicine in Vail, and the family made the 75-minute drive from Phippsburg two to three times per week so she could return to basketball, the game she loves.

"It was a little surprising to me, but she just buckled down and got to it," Greg Peterson said.

Briana Peterson also spent significant hours during the summer on the court with longtime Steamboat Springs coach Kelly Meek, whom Greg had as his coach in his playing days three decades ago.

"He’s an awesome guy," Briana Peterson said about coach Meek. "He knows so much about the game. He helped me perfect my shot and he’s a big mental guy. He helps you understand everything before you do it."

With the new highly competitive rehab program at Howard Head and with Meek’s guidance, Peterson prepared for her third season on the Soroco campus. She stacked more than 20 pounds of muscle on her 5-foot-10 frame and sharpened her post moves during the recovery process.

On Oct. 2, Peterson finally got to announce through her Facebook page that she was cleared by her Vail doctors, a full two months before Soroco’s season opener.

"Being out of it for a year, it feels really good to be back," Peterson said "I don’t want to hold back at all or play scared. Let me play to my full potential."

And she has done just that through the Rams’ first six games this winter. She’s shooting 63 percent from the floor, averaging nearly 14 points per game and snagging six rebounds per contest.

It’s full speed ahead for Peterson, who is eying a complete season alongside a lineup stacked with varsity stars.

"I’m just going to play my game and help my team as much as I can," Peterson said. "I think we are definitely state material."

To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll