SPOKANE, Wash. — A loose ball came hurtling toward Dora Goles, but instead of catching it, she used her left hand to bat it down and corral it. The rest of that Idaho State possession looked pretty ordinary, Goles bringing the ball up against Eastern Washington Thursday night, but if you looked closely, you noticed something far from it.
That’s because for the past two weeks now, Goles has been sporting tape on a finger on her right hand, which helps keep that finger immobilized. Last month, the Idaho State guard badly sprained it, sidelining her for two games. The Bengals haven’t missed a beat — their win over the Eagles was their seventh straight — but with Goles on the bench, they’re missing a dimension to their offense.
The rough part for the Bengals is they’re missing several dimensions. On Jan. 1, in Idaho State’s win over Montana State, junior Callie Bourne sustained an injury to her shoulder/clavicle area. That came just weeks after point guard Diaba Konate returned from a knee injury that kept her on the shelf for the first 10 games of the season. Throw in Goles’ finger injury and it becomes clear how hobbled Idaho State is right now.
“I think they know how to handle it. I haven’t had to get involved much,” Idaho State coach Seton Sobolewski said. “We’ve had some really good depth. We’re lacking, but we’re still pretty good.”
Here’s where each of Idaho State’s injured players stand.
Konate’s prognosis is best. For all intents and purposes, she’s back, pushing the ball in transition and whipping smart passes to teammates. Konate uses her athleticism to unlock so much for the Bengals, guarding opponents’ best guards and getting to the basket on offense. But after Idaho State topped Eastern Washington Thursday night, Sobolewski estimated Konate feels 85 to 90% healthy.
The real challenge for Konate, he said, is trusting her knee. She isn’t feeling pain anymore. She’s just in her own head a tad.
“There’s certain things she does to guard her leg, where she will change what she’s doing so she doesn’t have to jump off that leg,” Sobolewski said. “So there’s some weird balance things that she’s not comfortable with yet, to really explode off that leg.”
If Konate is playing like this at 85% health, the rest of the Big Sky should be looking over their shoulders. Against Eastern Washington, Konate recorded a season-best 18 points, handed out six assists, grabbed five rebounds and swiped six steals. She also played 34 minutes, which followed her 35-minute outing against Weber State, when she scored six points and dished out 13 assists. Check out Konate’s minutes this season and you understand how comfortable she’s feeling: 4, 18, 20, 26, 35, 34.
Then there’s Goles, who we touched on earlier. Healthy, she’s Idaho State’s best scorer.
Through early December, she looked like it, recording nine points per game on a couple triples each time out. But that’s when she sprained a finger on her shooting hand — “it’s swollen up pretty damn big,” Sobolewski said — which forced her to miss two games.
Since then, she played nine minutes against Weber State and 18 against Eastern Washington. She didn’t score in either game. Really, she never threatened to, ceding to playmakers like Konate and Tomekia Whitman. It’s clear she doesn’t feel comfortable handling the ball like she usually does. But she’s played more and more each of the Bengals’ past two games, meaning her finger is starting to improve.
“She’s just trying to figure out, after being out for awhile, where she fits in again,” Sobolewski said. “I think she’s handling everything in a very mature manner, where she’s not disrupting the flow we established when she was out…. She was worried about hitting it again and having another setback, but it is feeling better.”
The Bengal with the worst prognosis is Bourne, the team’s leading rebounder and a reliable playmaker on the perimeter. Against Montana State, she injured her shoulder/clavicle bone area. A week later, she traveled with the team to Ogden, Utah, for the Weber State game, sporting a black splint on her arm.
She didn’t make the trip up north for Idaho State’s two-game stretch against Eastern Washington and Idaho, though. She’s back in Pocatello resting her left shoulder for the four weeks she’s expected to miss, which puts her on track for a return in early-to-mid February. The interesting part: Idaho State hasn’t received an exact diagnosis on the injury.
“Still nothing super definitive,” Sobolewski said. “On the x-rays, there’s a little shadow that looks like it could be a little break, but they also think it could be just an AC joint sprain. There’s nothing that’s cut-and-dry. She didn’t break her clavicle all the way through. They know that much.”
The good news for Bourne and the Bengals is that regardless of the two injuries she could have — a sprained AC joint or a small clavicle fracture — the treatment remains the same, Sobolewski said. Four weeks of rest.
There’s never a good time for one of your starters to get hurt, but for Idaho State, this upcoming stretch is as close as it gets. After the Bengals visit Idaho on Saturday, they return to Pocatello for a four-game homestand that runs through January, hosting Weber State, Southern Utah, Sacramento State and Northern Colorado.
By then, they hope, Goles and Konate will feel like themselves and Bourne will be close to a return.