Girls basketball: Neff savors injury-free senior season for Northridge

Thursday , February 22, 2018 - 6:56 PM

TAYLORSVILLE — In December, Abigail Neff scored 13 points to co-lead Northridge to a win against Layton Christian. At that point, it was one of her better games of the season.

Neff, a senior, was just happy to be there.

“This is my first real season for high school basketball. (The injuries were) hard, but I think I’m better and stronger because of that,” Neff said after that game.

The journey to Thursday’s 6A girls state basketball quarterfinal, a 61-36 loss to Bingham (18-6), was frustrating for Neff, but rewarding as well.

Neff was in contact with college basketball coaches after her freshman year and figured to be a big part of the Knights’ varsity team her sophomore year. Right before the season, she broke her ankle, missed most of the year and the college contact stopped.

“Once that hit, I went downhill, I tried to get back,” she said. “And I don’t think I’m fully back, but that’s what’s the best part is — I know that I’m better than this.”

Neff returned in mid-January of her sophomore year, but she was slower, didn’t have as much confidence and wasn’t the same player. Basketball became equal parts frustration and enjoyment her junior when she missed four weeks with shin splints.

She had no intention of her senior year heading down the drain with injures. Over the summer, Neff learned to trust her ankle again and played the 2017-18 season injury-free, posting averages of 8.1 points and 4.2 rebounds per game.

“To see how hard she worked over the last year-and-a-half, two years to come back and be where she’s at, it’s awesome,” Knights head coach Chris Smith said.

Northridge (16-6) finished this season with a school-record 16 wins, a third-place finish in Region 1 and the Knights won only their second playoff game in school history, their first since 1997, when they beat Cyprus on Tuesday.

Considering the Knights only ever had one winning season (1994-95) before this year, those two facts might be looked at as more-than-noteworthy.

So while the loss Thursday wasn’t the ending the Knights wanted after a historic season, Neff says it was a relief to play this season.

“Losing in the playoffs, this is where the best of the best is. You know that you’re good when you get there and our season was incredible, it’s something to be proud of,” she said.

The Knights were ousted from the playoffs by Bingham for the second year in a row. On Thursday, Northridge trailed 8-6 in the first quarter after Neff made a 3-pointer, then the Miners’ defense struck gold. 

Bingham finished the first half on a 22-4 run and took care of business in the second half. Kendell Petersen was a bright spot for the Knights, scoring 10 points with three steals.

Neff says she’s getting in touch with colleges again even though it’s somewhat late in the recruiting process, but she’s hopeful Thursday won’t be the last time she suits up in a basketball game 

You can reach prep sports reporter Patrick Carr at pcarr@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @patrickcarr_ or like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/patrickcarr17.

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