BY DENNIS CHASE
---- — KALKASKA — When Kelli Guy reflects on her high school basketball career, it’s not the records, it’s not the wins, she’ll remember most.
“It’s the great teammates that I got to play with, and the memories that I’ll always have with them,” the two-time All-State guard said.
The Blazers produced another memory-maker Friday night, winning a third Lake Michigan Conference title in four years with a 67-21 win over Boyne City.
The 5-foot-4 Guy had a Senior Night performance that Blazer fans have become accustomed to — 33 points, seven assists, five steals and four rebounds. She was 14-of-21 from the field, hitting five 3-pointers.
It was quite a finish to the regular season for Guy and the 17-3 Blazers, who start Class B district play Wednesday at Grayling. When the Guy exited the game Friday, coach Dave Dalton was there to greet her with a hug and an acknowledgement.
“It’s been a great time,” he told her.
A time that was also once filled with uncertainty.
Two years ago, Guy had a troublesome knee issue that forced her to sit out several games, leaving her to wonder when and if she would be able to play pain-free.
“She only practiced two or three times her whole sophomore season,” Dalton recalled. “She played in maybe half the games. She loves to practice, loves to play. It was tough on her.”
Guy’s knee started bothering her after a team camp in the summer. The diagnosis: A torn meniscus. Surgery followed.
“Everyone told me meniscus (surgeries) are quick and easy,” Guy said. “That there’s not much to them. I was hoping for that. But there were some complications.”
Guy’s knee continued to swell when she tried to play on it. She had trouble bending it. Guy went to physical therapy, took injections to reduce the inflammation, even had the knee drained. Nothing seemed to work.
“Everybody was trying to do their best to help me, to get me playing,” Guy said. “It was difficult (sitting out). But I’m thankful for what I could do. I guess everything happens for a reason.”
Kelli’s parents continued to seek answers.
“We were very frustrated,” Kelli’s father, Gary, said. “Kelli kept a lot of it in, but I know she was really wondering whether she was going to be able to continue to play basketball. She couldn’t run, she couldn’t jump, she couldn’t bend her knee. She only had about 50 percent range of motion in it. She got through that season, but she was pretty discouraged.”
After consulting with doctors, Guy was referred to an orthopedic surgeon at the University of Minnesota.
“She looked at all the CAT scans, the MRI and the reports and basically confirmed that the (meniscus) injury had healed,” Gary Guy said. “Kelli had developed a condition called pseudogout. It’s not true gout, but it has some of the same symptoms where when she tried to play on her knee it continued to swell. She (orthopedic surgeon) said this was an issue that needed to be treated by a rheumatoid specialist.”
The Guys were referred to a doctor at the University of Michigan. It was there that they were told the condition was treatable with medication.
“Almost immediately the swelling went down,” Gary Guy said. “She’s been able to play the last two years pain-free. We have a lot to be thankful for. Just the fact she was able to come back is amazing and a real blessing.”
Back to her old self, Guy has continued on with one of the best careers in school history. She’s third on the school’s all-time scoring list with 1,598 points. She’s the school’s career assist leader with more than 500. In addition to the three league titles, the Blazers have won three districts and reached three regional finals in her first three years. Kalkaska is 85-10 over the last four years.
“That’s what we work for,” Guy said of all the success. “I don’t know if I expected it to be this good, but we work really hard.”
Guy has been part of the Blazer basketball program since elementary school. She became the team’s ball girl, then the statistician.
“I’ve worked my way up,” she said, laughing.
Dalton said he’s been working with her since “second or third grade.” Guy even started going to varsity team camps when she was in middle school.
The 17-year-old grew up in a sports family. She often played basketball in the drive with her older brothers Jeff and Dan. And if it wasn’t basketball, it would be hockey on the family’s ice rink in the backyard.
“They never took it easy on me,” Guy said.
Well, opponents are saying that about Kelli Guy now. The sharpshooter is hitting at a near 53 percent clip from the floor.
“We were down 18 at Boyne City (earlier in the season) and Kelli made 11 of her last 14 shots, including a bunch of threes,” Dalton said. “That’s freaky stuff. She scored 30 against Elk Rapids (a week ago last Friday) and was six of six on threes.”
For the season, Guy is averaging 25.6 points, 5.2 assists and 3.7 steals per game. She could score even more, but Dalton said she’s an unselfish player who enjoys passing and setting up her teammates just as much.
“She doesn’t feel comfortable shooting when we’re ahead,” Dalton said. “I respect that.”
“I just try to have a balanced game,” Guy said.
And where did she develop such accuracy shooting the ball?
“It wasn’t from me,” her father said, laughing. “In fact, she corrects me all the time. I played basketball in high school, but my shot was terrible. We owe it all to coach Dalton. Kelli loves the game and is pretty coachable and Dave has worked a lot with her.”
“He taught me the form,” Kelli Guy said. “He’s the best.”
That admiration is mutual. On Friday, Dalton spoke to his five seniors in a pre-game meeting, telling each what they meant to him. When he got to Guy, he didn’t mention numbers or wins.
“I told her how much I appreciated her commitment and the fact that every single time I talked to her she sat up straight and looked me in the eye,” Dalton said. “Whatever I would tell her, she would nod her head and then try her best to do it.”
Dalton called Friday “an emotional” night. But it was tempered by the fact the Blazers season is not over.
“I’m excited,” Guy said about the post-season. “We have to keep it going as long as possible. I’m ready for a tournament run.”
When the season does end, Guy can look forward to a collegiate career at Michigan Tech. She was a top recruit for the Huskies. Guy’s mom, Susan, and grandfather, the late Dr. William Kitti, attended Tech. Kitti played basketball and ran track.
Former Blazer star Maria Kasza is an assistant coach there.
“Kelli worked hard for that scholarship,” Dalton said, “but it wasn’t work for her.”
Looking back, Gary Guy said his daughter’s knee problem may have had a positive impact.
“Being off that amount of time and watching the game was difficult for her, but in the long run it’s really made her hungrier,” he said. “I think you really appreciate something more when it’s taken away from you.”
In the meantime, you can be certain if Kelli Guy’s not home she’s probably at the gym, honing her game.
“Not a bad place to be,” she said.