BRUNSWICK — Cassi Bowen is one tough player.
It’s evident in how the Brunswick shooting guard can slash her way to the basket and finish among some of the biggest front-court players around.
She’s come a long way from a year ago.
In just the second game of the season for the Blue Devils last winter, Bowen tore her ACL, ending her season before it even began and starting a rehabilitation process that would last until the early fall.
She took advantage of every second she was sidelined.
“My therapist let me come back early, so I made the most of it,” Bowen said. “I was always shooting or dribbling in the months I was out.”
The junior hasn’t lost a beat in her first full season in over a year.
Despite some new hardware on her knee, Bowen has not only been as consistent as any player in the area this winter (10.2 points, 54 percent shooter), she also posted back-to-back nights of 22 and 23 points in wins over St. Vincent-St. Mary and Brush.
“I’m surprised with how big of a jump she’s made,” first-year coach Halle Lengal said. “Even when she was hurt, she was dribbling or form shooting on the side and was at everything. I knew she would be fine when she got back.
“But to get 20 points? I didn’t expect that. That’s a lot.”
What makes it most impressive is that an injury that typically slows down a player or makes them more tentative has not fazed Bowen.
The 5-foot-8 Blue Devil dives after loose balls, leaps for rebounds and attacks the bucket the same way she did when she saw some varsity minutes as a freshman.
“In the beginning, I was a little nervous to get in some contact,” she said. “I didn’t want to fall into someone, but I had to fight through that.”
Lengal, a former standout player for Brunswick, said Bowen’s tenacity was the most impressive thing about her fast start.
“That’s the crazy thing about it, because players are usually tentative after going through something like that,” she said. “But in our first open gym, she didn’t miss a beat. I’ve never seen anyone come back from that.
“She was never nervous or scared. She loves the game and wants to get better.”
After returning a handful of veteran players or ones that finished the season healthy a season ago, the Blue Devils are off to a 7-5 start and in the middle of the Northeast Ohio Conference River Division title chase.
Bowen, who sees time at both the off-guard and point guard positions, has a lot to do with that.
“I think it was just a matter of not playing and getting that game experience,” Lengal said. “In practice, she started to get her legs, and I think that helped her to not force things.
“It took awhile to read defenses and do what she does best — get to the basket.”
Contact Dan Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.