The buzzer sounds as the Buffalo Bison Boy’s Basketball team beats the Hopkins Royals. Tori Johnson ‘24 and Trevor Kotilinek ‘25 cheer from their spots on the bench, happy for their team but wishing they could have played. They stand up on their injured legs and congratulate their teammates.Basketball has always been Johnson and Kotilinek’s favorite sport. Both had high hopes for the team this year, and were expected to be significant contributors.
Johnson got the chance to experience the team’s success for half the season. He was the starting guard, until he partially tore his ACL against Minneapolis Southwest. “It didn’t feel like it was torn but I knew something was wrong,” Johnson remembers. “I went to the hospital after the game and the doctors told me It was partially torn but a full ACL surgery and recovery was needed, it sucked.”
Johnson was told he would be out for the year.
Dealing with a similar injury, Kotilinek had been on the varsity bench all year, but was getting closer to playing late in the season, after partially tearing his ACL in August while playing football. During games, all Kotilinek could do was hand out water and cheer on the team. During practices, he would do what he could to stay in shape. “It motivated me to practice harder by myself knowing there is a chance I’d play. I practiced a lot of free throws, which were really hard because I had to use a different shooting form. I also would rebound if they needed me when their putting shots up,” he explained.
Missing both Johnson and Kotilinek to similar injuries had a big impact on the team. Wyatt Jayson ‘24 said that the team was significantly impacted by the losses.
“They both brought so much energy to the team,” Jayson said. “They really held the team together so without them it’d be tough, but we got it done. Even though losing both of them was tough, it motivated us to play harder for them, knowing they couldn’t be out there.”
The team lived up to Jayson’s word. They went on to win their section and made their first appearance in the State Tournament since 2014. Kotilinek finally got in after all his hard work and made some nice plays in the quarterfinals. Johnson has mentioned his recovery is ahead of schedule and is preparing for next year.