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Sports & Rec

Mahli Abdouch, O’Gorman’s true Knight

9e27c3430c_Mahli O'Gorman.jpg
Josh Jurgens
South Dakota Public Broadcasting

O’Gorman’s girls’ basketball team is celebrating a state championship this week. This past Saturday in Rapid City, the Lady Knights defeated Rapid City Stevens 48-39 to win the ‘AA’ title. But for O’Gorman sophomore point guard Mahli Abdouch, the journey of winning a state championship this year is so much more than what happened on the court.

This past August, days before the 2021-22 school year began, Abdouch was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that threatened not only her basketball career, but her chance at a normal life.

“August 10th was the first day, it was a Wednesday. I got back from a basketball camp and a visit, and I just came back, went to the doctor, and initially they didn’t diagnose me with anything. They just sent me hope with some anti-nausea meds,” told Abdouch. “The next day I went back to to the ER, because my face was paralyzed. They did a spinal tap and then said “yeah, you have Guillain-Barre.””

According to the Center for Disease Control, Guillain-Barre syndrome ‘is a rare, autoimmune disorder in which a person’s own immune system damages the nerves, causing weakness and sometimes paralysis.’ While most people do fully recover, if it’s caught early enough, some experience permanent nerve damage.

“It was a shock. She wasn’t feeling good for a couple days and I got a text that said she was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome, and the first thing you do is google it. And it was just kind of scary when you see the internet,” explained O’Gorman head girls basketball coach Kent Kolsrud. “Our first thought was, just get her back healthy again. Basketball was a pretty moot point at that time.”

Abdouch spent around a week in the hospital, and then the recovery began. The average recovery time is around 9-12 months, but Mahli being Mahli, she was back in three to four months. Not only did she recover quickly, but she was back on the court for O’Gorman’s first practice on November 22nd.

“The first practice came up and I was back. It was surreal, I just couldn’t believe that I had done it in such a short period of time. It was probably the best feeling in the world to be able practice with my whole team for the first time,” stated Abdouch. “[My teammates and coaches] were all super supportive.”

“Number one, we’re just so pleased and fortunate that she got back healthy, and second that she got back to play the sport that she loves,” Kolsrud said.

As a sophomore, Abdouch was the starting point guard for O’Gorman. This year’s Lady Knight’s squad was ranked No. 2 going into the state ‘AA’ tournament. They rolled over Sioux Falls Lincoln in the quarterfinals, beat Brandon Valley in the semi’s, and then topped Rapid City Stevens in the championship game.

For the tournament, Mahli Abdouch scored 31-points, recorded 14 assists, snagged nine rebounds, and notched five steals. Her key role with the team is something her team raves about.

“Molly’s a very dynamic player,” explained Kolsrud. “She brings so many things to the table. She can shoot the perimeter shot very well, she can get to the basketball really well, great passer, a leader at that position, great in transition, can get up and pressure people as well, and she’s only a sophomore.”

“My team trusts me and I trust my team. We have that relationship where we communicate well and we’re all on the same page,” Abdouch exclaimed.

Molly has already committed to playing college basketball at South Dakota State University after she graduates high school, but for now, she’s got two years left. And with the experience she’s had this past year, she doesn’t take anything for granted.

“I put my faith in God and knew that he would carry it out and take care of me,” said Abdouch.