GVSU adjusting after loss of top rebounder

GVL / Kevin Sielaff - Korynn Hincka (44) passes the ball to Brionna Barnett (22).  The Lakers down the Timberwolves of Northwood University in Allendale with a final score of 71-47 Jan. 24, 2016.

Kevin Sielaff

GVL / Kevin Sielaff – Korynn Hincka (44) passes the ball to Brionna Barnett (22). The Lakers down the Timberwolves of Northwood University in Allendale with a final score of 71-47 Jan. 24, 2016.

Beau Troutman

Rebounding is second nature for Korynn Hincka. The Grand Valley State sophomore center led the team with 5.6 total rebounds per game in just 13.2 minutes per game going into a Jan. 23 game against Northwood.

So, when she went up for another rebound in the second quarter of that Northwood game, she didn’t think anything of it—it’s something she’s always done.

“It was just a normal rebound, like I’d go up for any rebound,” Hincka said. “I don’t even remember the rebound that well because, like I said, it was just like any normal rebound.”

Hincka awkwardly planted on her right leg and suffered a fully torn ACL. She immediately fell to the floor, causing the raucous Fieldhouse Arena to go silent.

“It was the worst pain I’ve ever felt, it was so painful,” she said. “I can’t even think of how bad it hurt in that moment. It was the worst.”

It’s the first major injury of her athletic career, and created a 6-foot-1-inch void on a Laker team that now lacks size off the bench.

Hincka had scored at least eight points and reeled in eight or more rebounds in three of her last four games before the injury.

“The tough thing for her was she was just starting to find her role and what she was capable of doing,” said GVSU coach Mike Williams. “She was coming off two or three monster games, and all of a sudden to see that happen was tough.”

The injury effectively ended Hincka’s season. She is scheduled for surgery on Feb. 24, and has been given roughly six months for recovery time, much of which will be spent rehabbing her knee.

She has already begun ‘prehabbing’ by working to strengthen her quad muscle, which she has a hard time flexing because of the ACL tear. Any work done now will give her a head start on what will be a long road to recovery.

“I feel like I’m ready in the way like I know what has to be done, but I know I’m going to get really anxious and want to do more,” she said. “You really have to follow the right procedure so I don’t mess it up again.”

With Hincka and senior guard Brionna Barnett out with a bad back, the Lakers will lean more on three key reserves—guards Lindsay Baker and Janae Langs, and forward Taylor Parmley. The regular season features just five more games, with Division II March Madness just around the corner.

With Parmley, the Lakers have a 5-foot-10-inch forward who leads the team in offensive rebounds with 37 on the year. She averages 6.6 points per game in 14.9 minutes per game, though the latter statistic will grow as the season wears on.

With Hincka and Parmley, the Lakers had a bench tandem that complemented starters Kayla Dawson and Piper Tucker. Now, that responsibility falls solely on Parmley.

Though Baker and Langs can’t replace the size of Hincka, they can certainly produce. Baker is an ace from behind the 3-point line and leads the team in made 3-point field goals.

“Korynn’s always been a really good defender, and that’s something I have to do more of now, is fill in her role and battle defensively,” Baker said. “She was always a big force for us on defense, and we’ll be primarily focusing on picking up that defensive slack.”

Langs has started the last four games in place of Barnett. In the Lakers’ last game against Michigan Tech on Feb. 6, Langs made a reverse layup that tied the game at 55 with just eight seconds remaining.

The interim starter only averages 2.7 points per game on the year, but her 10-point performance against Michigan Tech was the most points she’s scored in any of her four starts.

“The nice thing is, we got some players now that are going to have to assume those roles, and I think they’re doing that,” Williams said. “I think Janae has assumed that role of Barnett. Lindsay and Parmley have assumed roles coming off the bench being that first line.

“Everybody has to take another step up, and I think they have so far.”

With all of the talk about who’s going to fill the void left by Hincka, Baker stressed that the injured center is still an important part of this season. She said the team is winning every game for her, and they’re doing everything they can to keep an unfortunate situation positive.

Hincka knew from the start that her teammates had her back.

“I specifically remember after the Northwood game, I went and sat on the bench,” she said. “I couldn’t crutch all the way down to give everybody high fives, and usually we meet in the center of the court to do our thing and say ‘Lakers.’ Instead, they came over to me.

“That was the moment where I was like, I’m going to be OK.”