LA PUENTE – Ashleigh Adams wasn’t hard to notice during her first two seasons with the Bishop Amat High School girls basketball team. She was the girl wearing a knee brace so big that it nearly hurt to watch her run. To see Adams play today, you’d never suspect that a torn ACL put her career on hold. Adams doesn’t wear a brace anymore. She doesn’t come off the bench anymore, either. Instead, she’s Amat’s third-leading scorer behind standouts Kristen McCarthy and Candice Brown, and a key reason why the Lancers host Cathedral Catholic in the first round of the CIF Division III State playoffs tonight at 7 p.m. “She’s worked awfully hard,” Amat coach Richard Wiard said. “We’re just now seeing the athlete that she is. That first year, she wasn’t able to play very much. Then, last year she played a little bit and obviously now, as a starter, it’s a great progression.” Adams is a 5-foot-10 junior forward for the 25-4 Lancers, has started the entire season and has given fans glimpses of the promise she showed prior to the knee injury she suffered in eighth grade while playing AAU ball. “At first, I was kind of depressed that I couldn’t play,” Adams said. “I was devastated. I was like `Wow, I can’t believe this,’ because I really love basketball. I realized that I had to stop for a year and do it all over again.” Stopping for a year meant playing sparsely as a freshman while going to rehab twice a week. Adams got considerably more time last season, as one of Amat’s first players off of the bench. The long knee brace she wore made her as recognizable as her flashes of grandeur. It’s gone now, and Adams claims the brace wasn’t as bad as it looked. “It wasn’t that really difficult,” Adams said with a chuckle. “When you get used to it, it feels like it’s your leg. I was happy when I didn’t have to wear it anymore because I didn’t have to worry about it.” With the brace now gone, Adams is playing with abandon. Her best performance this season came when she scored 20 points in a win over Monrovia at the SoCal Shootout at Azusa Pacific University. She also scored 10 points in each of Amat’s first two Southern Section playoff games. On most nights, Adams isn’t needed for offense – thanks to Brown and McCarthy – but she’s just happy to be out there healthy and contributing. “Getting back in it was kind of difficult, but I do my part and help them (Brown and McCarthy) do their part,” Adams said. “I can help the team a lot.” Having helped Amat win the past two Division III state titles has served Adams well as she prepares to aid this year’s team to makes its run, this time as a starter. Adams will be one of the main players tonight given the task of stopping Cathedral Catholic standout Victoria Lippert, averaging 24.3 points per game. Asking Adams to handle such a challenge is no problem for Wiard, who uses her like many of his versatile standouts of years past. “She’s left-handed, and that’s important. That’s worth a couple of buckets right there,” Wiard said. “I was hoping she’d be a good option for us offensively, and she has been. But her defense has come along very nicely. She wasn’t thrust into having to be a star right away and I’ve been very pleased with her development.” [email protected] (626) 962-8811, Ext. 2233 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!