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The Butler Did It: Happy again on the court

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Instead, it was just the beginning. Javadifar, the heart of the Hilltoppers' basketball team, suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament late in the AAU season. Doctors said she could resume playing the sport she loves in five months - April 1, to be exact. Just after the end of her senior season. But there she was, back on the court, back in the starting lineup. The plan hatched by Mary Louis coach Joe Lewinger was for Javadifar to be on the court for one possession, a gesture of thanks for three years of dedication.Or so she thought. But Lewinger had a little more planned. He wanted to make sure Javadifar scored at least two points in her final year and enlisted the help of Archbishop Molloy coach Dom Cecala and Stanners star Kerri White. Even though the game was for second place in Brookyn/Queens Division I, Cecala immediately obliged. And White carried a message on to her teammates."If anyone touches Maral, I'll kill them," she said. Javadifar and White are best friends. It's a friendship that started with hatred because of the rivalry between the two programs, but soon blossomed when the two Flushing residents played for Kerri's father, Kevin, on his New York City Heat AAU team. "I tried to hate her, but it didn't work," Kerri said. "We just got so close that it was hard to hate her."White was Javadifar's roommate on the Heat when they played an AAU tournament at Villanova University Sept. 29. That's the day Javadifar suffered the serious knee injury."It was the worst thing that could have happened to me," Javadifar said. "I've never been without basketball for that long. But it's made me so much stronger."A day later, Lewinger was there, hoping to see several of his players take on Exodus, featuring McDonald's All-American Sammy Prahalis as well as a number of Murry Bergtraum and St. Michael Academy standouts. When he arrived, Lewinger saw Javadifar in the stands. He knew by the look on her face something was wrong. "She said she fell and thought she hyper-extended her knee," Lewinger said. "But you could tell it was more. She started to say, 'It's..."Javadifar stopped short. She knew there was a tear, but couldn't bring herself to admit or accept it. She went for an MRI and the first result brought about a false sense of hope. But the second and third opinions confirmed Javadifar's worst fears."It's torn."That was the message she texted Lewinger Oct. 5 at 10:58 a.m., one he still keeps on his cell phone today. When Javadifar arrived at the Jamaica Estates school, she went right to Lewinger's office and openly wept for what seemed like hours. Soon there was a procession into the office, from Principal Sister Kathleen McKinney to deans and teachers. But they, too, left the office in tears. "It was like a funeral," Lewinger said. To appreciate the emotional response, the deafening roars from the standing room only crowd on Senior Night is to know Javadifar. "Everyone knows Maral at school," Lewinger said. "She is known as the person who is always the one who has the kind word to say, who has words of encouragement."With the love of her life taken away for the first time, Javadifar could have stayed away. The pain in her surgically repaired knee didn't compare to the hurt and frustration she felt not being able to play. But she rarely missed a practice and became a de facto assistant coach. "Honestly, I was so happy for her," Mary Louis junior guard Amanda Burakoski said. "I felt so proud of her. She's been working so hard to get her knee to feel better to play the game she loves."On Senior Night, against the once-hated Stanners from Molloy, Javadifar was back where she belonged. Sure it was for just 10 seconds, sure she scored just two points. But it is 10 seconds that meant the world to someone who meant the world to the Mary Louis basketball team. "Just to be out there," Javadifar said, "made me happy again."Reach Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at news@TimesLedger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.

Updated 6:57 pm, October 10, 2011
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