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Utah hoops star scores even after devastating injury

Posted at 5:48 PM, Feb 27, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-27 19:48:14-05

SMITHFIELD, Utah — It was a January home game between the two top teams in their region, Sky View and Ridgeline, and Melanie Hiatt was doing what a post does best: rebounding. That's when she came down with the ball and saw nobody was down the court.

"I thought, I'm just going to take it dribble it down and get a fast break layup," Hiatt recalled.

The opposing team's defender caught up with Hiatt, so she made a quick cut in an attempt to evade the defender when her knee bent inward.

"I didn't know what was happening," she remembered. "My knee was hurting really bad.

Hiatt soon learned she had torn her ACL and meniscus, but she could never imagine that months later she would score her team's first basket in the 4A Girl's Basketball State Championship against the same Ridgeline team.

The basket came with the help of her coach, Vanessa Hall, and Ridgeline coach, Ainsli Jenks, along with local referees and officials.

"After the semifinal game, when we found out it was going to be us versus Ridgeline, Ridgeline's coach ... she reached out to me," Hall said. "We were on top of the Spectrum, and she came over to me and said, 'Hey, we want to let Mel get the basket and we want to let her start.'"

When Hall first told Hiatt the news, her player was shocked.

"I thought, no way they were going to let me do this for a state championship game," Hiatt said. "I haven't shot a basketball in weeks, maybe even a month. So in warmups ... I took a few more layups to make sure I was ready and could make it."

Hiatt was ready and made the basket with ease as her teammates gathered around hugging and celebrating with her. She said starting with the girls she grew up playing with made the moment even more special.

"We dreamed about my senior year being in the state championship. I was grateful I was able to start with them one last time," Hiatt said.

For Hall, seeing Hiatt's season end on a high note after the injury was inspiring

"Mel has been awesome. She's been very positive, she's come to every practice that she could, she's come to every game that she could. I actually don't think she missed a game, she came to a game the day after her surgery," the coach said said.

Although Hiatt's basketball career may be over, she says she'll take the lessons she learned from her injury to her volleyball career at Snow College in the fall.

"I was thinking, maybe this is teaching me how to be a good teammate because in college you don't always play, sometimes you're just there to support your teammate."