It isn’t hard to tell exactly when Taylor Kissinger returned to the Minden lineup.
It’s when the wins started piling up for the Whippets.
The high-scoring junior guard was sidelined for two months by a broken wrist, suffered on the second day of preseason practice. Class C-1 Minden went 7-5 without Kissinger but has gone 7-1 since her return, losing only to Class C-2 power Hastings St. Cecilia.
“It’s great to have her back,” Whippets coach Rick Chramosta said. “She’s still not 100 percent, but she’s getting there.”
Minden entered the season with high hopes pinned on the 6-foot Kissinger, who averaged 25.7 points and 10 rebounds last season. She has followed in the footsteps of older twin sisters Jamie and Brooke, who helped the Whippets reach the state tournament in each of their four years.
But that good vibe changed when Kissinger hurt her wrist after making a layup. She was injured Nov. 17 while practicing in the Whippets’ smaller gym as she tried to brace her arm against the wall behind the basket.
For the next eight weeks, Kissinger was forced to play a waiting game.
“It’s been tough to just sit and watch games,” she said. “But I tried to make the most of my time while I was out.”
Kissinger stayed in shape by running and continued to work on other parts of her game, including left-handed dribbling.
Kissinger said she also has tried to study games from the bench.
“It gave me a fresh perspective,” she said. “But I still couldn’t wait to get back out on the court.”
That time came Jan. 12 in a road game against Ravenna. Though she had her right (shooting) wrist taped — she had just gotten her cast off a few days before — Kissinger scored 19 points in a 52-43 victory.
“I was a little rusty coming back,” she said. “But it was just fun to get back out there with my teammates.”
The Whippets lost their next game against St. Cecilia, but have rattled off six straight wins since. Kissinger is averaging a state-leading 29 points per game since her return, which includes a career-high 40 against Ainsworth.
Chramosta, in his 14th season as head coach, said Kissinger’s return has meant a lot to the team.
“The kids did a good job without her,” he said, “but it’s pretty obvious the girls are happy to have her back.”
The coach added that he can tell Kissinger still isn’t where she wants to be, especially her long-range shooting.
“Because of the wrist, it’s what’s been affected the most,” he said. “But that’s also shown signs of improvement, so she’s getting there.”
Kissinger helped the Whippets reach state last season for the fifth straight time and the seventh time in eight years. Minden finished as the state runner-up in 2012 and 2014, but was knocked out of last year’s tourney in the first round by eventual state champion Pierce.
Because of the team’s early-season struggles, the Whippets face an uphill battle just to reach state this season. The team has little hope for a wild-card berth and it will compete in the same subdistrict as second-ranked Kearney Catholic.
But on the bright side, the Whippets have their big gun back. She wasn’t in the lineup when the Stars posted a 26-point win over Minden in mid-December.
“Our kids know what they need to do,” Chramosta said. “We know it’s a tough road ahead, but we’re going to give it a go.”
Kissinger, who is weighing several collegiate scholarship offers, said she’s ready for the challenge.
“Our goal at the start of the season was to be playing our last game this year in Lincoln,” she said. “We’re going to give it our best shot.”
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