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Mayo and a healthy, appreciative Kirkeby blow out Century girls

Jan. 13—ROCHESTER — Kaia Kirkeby reflects on what happened last basketball season and closes her eyes, sad memories wafting over her.

"Last year was so hard," she said.

A sophomore a year ago and a standout, Kirkeby was only allowed a little more than half of a season. That's because on Jan. 21, the fast, powerful and feisty point guard blew out her right knee.

The diagnosis was a torn ACL and it kept her from competition — including all of this past fall's soccer season — until November. That's when basketball season started.

By then, the 5-foot-4 Kirkeby had nine months of rehabilitation under her, including 10 weeks of daily sprints supervised by her father, Mayo assistant basketball coach Kevin Kirkeby.

"That was a lot, but it was super beneficial," Kaia said. "Now, I'm not a step behind where everyone else is."

Judging by the looks of her Saturday in a romp over Century, she's instead a step ahead of just about everyone, same as pre-injury, using all of that speed and quickness.

Not only that, but she's appreciating things more than ever. Kirkeby is in the midst of a basketball season that has glowed for her and her team. Never did things look brighter for Mayo than Saturday night when the Spartans and their bevy of talent blew out rival Century 81-47 at McNish Gymnasium.

Mayo stayed unbeaten in the Big Nine Conference (8-0) and is 11-2 overall. Century is 6-3, 9-6.

"I'm just so grateful to be back," said Kirkeby, who finished Saturday's game with 11 points and a broad smile. "Even if it's not the greatest day for me shooting wise or something, you know, I just get back on defense and I'm here with my team. I'm just grateful for every opportunity I get."

On Saturday, Mayo took the opportunity to play arguably its best game of the season and against its biggest rival.

The Spartans wasted no time in setting the tone, grabbing a stunning 35-6 lead. After that, they easily finished off Century, riding a beautifully balanced effort on both ends of the floor in doing it.

"I think we played really well tonight," Mayo coach Andy Bromeling said. "I think anytime my kids can come out and move the ball, shoot the ball well, get the ball inside and play defense like we did, we're going to be tough."

Kirkeby's tag-team guard partner Amelia Mills led Mayo offensively, the richly talented eighth-grader with 23 points, including three 3-pointers. Star senior center Ava Miller added 22 points and Mia Banks had 12 with four 3-pointers.

Nora Lynch was Century's leader with 14 points and four 3-pointers.

Kirkeby sees this Mayo edition as a special one. Not only is there plenty of talent there, led by 6-2 center Miller who will play Division I college basketball next year, but there is an unmistakable togetherness.

That starts with Mayo's backcourt, where Kirkeby and Mills have become as bonded a tandem as they are a lethal one.

"I think we play really well together and we have a lot of the same things, like we're the same height and both fast," Kirkeby said. "Plus, she's just a great girl and hilarious, and I love just hanging out with her."

There were less good feelings on this night from the other side, Century. A team that is also renowned for its bond just didn't have its usual winning stuff on Saturday.

Panthers coach Chadd Clarey instructed his team to forget about this game.

Well, kind of.

"I still want it in the back of their minds (so it doesn't happen again)," Clarey said. "I want them to keep that memory back there somewhere."

Mayo 81, Century 47

CENTURY (47)

Audrey Whitney 6 P, 2 3-PT; Nora Lynch 14 P, 4 3-PT; Ezmae Severson 4 P; Bailey Klote 9 P, 1 3-PT; Ryann Speer 8 P, 2 3-PT; Bianca Quirindonogo 6 P.

MAYO (81)

Amelia Mills 23 P, 3 3-PT; Mia Banks 12 P, 4 3-PT; Kaia Kirkeby 11 P, 2 3-PT; Ava Miller 22 P; Maggie Dyer 7 P; Carmen Kadlec 6 P.

Halftime: MAYO 44, CENT 17.

Free throws: CENT 6-11, MAYO 5-11.

Three-point goals: CENT 9, MAYO 9.