D200320 girls 5a-7a all area

Athens' Caroline Bachus is the girls Class 5A-7A Player of the Year. Here, she shoots during the Northwest Regional semifinals at Wallace State Community College. [DAN BUSEY/DECATUR DAILY]

Caroline Bachus couldn’t believe it was happening again.

She sat on the ground clutching her left knee after colliding with an opponent during a subregional game her freshman season with West Limestone.

She tore her ACL in her left knee after tearing it in her right knee before her eighth-grade season.

“I was so young, and my AAU team also had so much success,” Bachus said. “To have injuries like that, I felt like everything was taken away.”

Bachus worked hard to get back to full strength after her first injury. She was new to the rehab process and had a lot of difficult days. Her second ACL tear felt like bad luck.

The 6-foot-2 forward, who played for West Limestone her seventh, eighth and ninth grade seasons, was having her best season yet before the second injury. She averaged 19 points and 14 rebounds per game and was a first-team All-State selection in Class 4A.

Bachus faced another long road to recovery that was also met with change.

She transferred to Class 6A Athens for her sophomore season. After months of rehab, Bachus came back and started for the Golden Eagles.

“I had never sat on the sidelines and watched before my injuries,” Bachus said. “That really developed me as a player. It took a lot of hard work to come back. It was a tough time.”

She then led Athens to a 23-6 record and an appearance at the Northwest Regional at Wallace State. She scored 14 points per game to go along with 13.8 rebounds and was a Class 6A second-team All-State selection.

Bachus has been selected as the Daily’s girls Class 5A-7A Player of the Year.

“She was humble and embraced each young lady in our program,” Athens coach Eddie Murphree said. “She never put herself above anybody.”

Her goal for her sophomore season was to get back to playing injury-free basketball. She hadn’t played a season without a major injury since seventh grade, when she an honorable mention on the Class 4A All-State team.

There was also the fear that she wouldn’t fit in with her new team. Luckily for Bachus, she grew up playing with Athens guard Alaina Taylor, and that helped her jell with her teammates.

“The first couple months were challenging,” Bachus said. “I had to get used to playing with them, and they had to get used to playing with me. We had the best chemistry we could have with me moving in like I did.”

It became apparent right away that Athens was going to be a force in Class 6A with Bachus leading the way. The Golden Eagles started the season 4-2 before winning 12 games in a row. They won 18 of their last 20 regular-season games.

Athens’ postseason got off to a tough start with a loss in the Class 6A, Area 15 championship to Muscle Shoals. They bounced back with a 60-29 win over Cullman in the subregional round.

Shooting struggles then plagued Athens in the Northwest Regional semifinals, and it lost to G.W. Carver 47-37.

The end was tough, but Athens left Wallace State with plenty to look forward to.

The team has plenty of talent coming back next season. Bachus will return with other key players like point guard Nahriyah Timmons, guard Kendall Crutcher, forward Mazie Swann, forward Jordyn Bailey and forward Taliyah McDonald.

Bachus also played a full 29-game season without an injury. She said she was about 85 percent healthy all season while wearing a knee brace.

She plans to play next season without the brace and has high expectations for herself and Athens.

“I think that moving forward, it’ll take me a few games of AAU to get my groove,” Bachus said. “We’ll be a different team, but I think it’ll be better.”

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—matthew.speakman@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2460. Twitter @DD_MSpeakman.

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