Jamie Beale heard it pop.
It was the eighth game in last year's basketball season, and only 20 seconds remained in regulation when Beale, Oakland Mills' point guard, raced to the corner for a loose ball. An Atholton player got there first.
Beale moved to cut her opponent off, but her body and right knee were not in sync. And just that quickly, Beale's sophomore season was over.
The damage was extensive -- a completely torn anterior cruciate ligament, a partially torn meniscus, and a partially torn medial cruciate ligament.
Surgery was March 12.
"The first thing I thought about after it happened was coming back and proving that this injury wasn't going to stop me," Beale said. "The love of the game and the support from my parents and friends made me want to come back."
And back she is.
"I think there is a purpose for everything," said Beale after scoring 10 points in a four-point loss Wednesday against Thomas Johnson. "I took it [basketball] for granted. I realized that I had to work harder than before. I think this has made me much stronger."
And the knee?
"I don't worry about it," said Beale, who wears a brace. "That's the least of my worries."
More than anything, she wants her team, which finished 1-13 in the county last year and 6-18 overall, to be successful.
"We want to win," Beale said. "And we want to earn the respect of the other teams in the county. We have the potential."
Would a .500 record against county teams be good enough.?
"It would be a big improvement from last year," Beale said, "but I think we're capable of doing better than that."
Following surgery, Beale had physical therapy for 2 1/2 months. She earned a scholarship to attend a Math and Science Research Program for three weeks at Penn State, where she re-injured the knee sprinting across a street to avoid traffic.
Beale, who played in the Columbia Basketball Association in the fifth grade and moved to a travel team in the seventh and an Amateur Athletic Union team in the eighth, didn't require additional surgery. Instead, she lifted weights, took aerobics and jogged.
"I'm in OK shape," said Beale, who played soccer during her freshman and sophomore years at Oakland Mills and plans to play for a club team this spring. "I'm getting by, but I know I could be in better shape."
At 5-foot-3, Beale usually looks up to her opponent. She likes it that way -- close to the court. She is a skilled dribbler, plays strong defense, can penetrate, and this year is looking to shoot more from the outside.
She is averaging 12.3 points, and scored 10 against Long Reach Friday night in the Scorpions' first win of the season, 56-40.
"She's working extremely hard," said Oakland Mills coach Teresa Waters. "She has a lot of smarts. In fact, I'd like her to be a little more vocal on the court."
Off the court, Beale has her priorities in order. She has a 3.21 grade-point average that she promises will be higher by year's end. She wants to be either a pediatrician or a forensic scientist and wants to work hard toward an academic scholarship.
"I definitely want to play basketball in college, and I wouldn't turn down a [basketball] scholarship," Beale said. "But an academic scholarship would be better. If I were to get hurt, I still would have a scholarship to fall back on. Academics are important. That's what is going to carry me through life."
Not to mention her charm and charisma.
Beale is involved in many activities at the school. "You name it, she's in it," said Waters.
She's been president of her class for three straight years.
"Everyone knows Jamie," said teammate Kena Hodges. "She's always cheerful. Always smiling."
"I'm a people person," Beale said. "I love people, and I want to help my class."
Added Waters: "Jamie's very personable, very caring. And she's a fun kid."
She also has a very supportive family, staring with her mother, Maxine.
"She's my best friend," Beale said. "I can tell her anything."
Pub Date: 12/15/96