It happened nearly 10 months ago, but Chopticon senior forward Jessica Ritchey remembers it as if it had just happened.

"February 10th. We were playing at Thomas Stone. I had the ball, running the fast break and saw Shonta [Countiss] spotting up for an open three, so I moved laterally around the defender to pass Shonta the ball," she said. "Then I heard my knee crack and cave inward, and it was the most excruciating pain I had ever felt. I thought it was all over."

Ritchey broke her left knee cap that day. But as the 5-foot-5 team captain runs up and down the court with the rest of her teammates now, the only evidence of the injury is three scars on her left knee.

"It's fine now," said Ritchey, who said she wants to play collegiately at the University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown.

And that's just what third-year coach Tony Lisanti wants to hear. If the Braves are to have any chance at winning their first Southern Maryland Athletic Conference title since 1975, Ritchey must stay healthy.

"She's one of the most fundamentally sound players I have ever coached and just a tremendous leader," Lisanti said. "In fact, the only problem with Jessica is that she is too unselfish, because I wish she would take a few more shots."

Ritchey averaged a team-high 13 points per game last season, missing Chopticon's final six games after her injury. The Braves return three more starters--junior guards Tia Briscoe (9 points per game) and Countiss (10 points per game), and senior center Crystal Herbert (8 points, 9 rebounds per game)--and should have one of the conference's most talented lineups.

"We have everything this year," Ritchey said. "Tia can shoot and pass, Shonta is a terror on defense and can score, and Crystal can block shots and rebound. We've been together for so long now, we're just like a family."