A year ago, in the closing seconds of a Mahtomedi victory over Henry Sibley, star forward Ali Greene lay on the basketball court with a knee injury not knowing what the future would hold. After finding out it was a torn ACL, the Zephyrs’ all-time leading scorer learned her junior season was over, her last chance to play AAU summer ball was finished, and a college scholarship was a question mark.
“So much went through my mind,” Greene said. “I was like, ‘Why is this happening to me?’ I worked so hard and then this happens. But, I thought about it and God always has a plan. I might not like the reason, but there’s a reason it happened. Even though it was a bad thing, it made me mentally and physically stronger because I had to work even harder.”
After a successful surgery and tireless rehab, Greene received a scholarship offer from Creighton in the spring. The senior returned for captain’s practice in October and now has the Zephyrs navigating previously uncharted territory.
With two regular-season games to go, Mahtomedi has matched the school record with 19 victories this season The Zephyrs defeated Simley for the first time in seven years and Hill-Murray for the first time in nine seasons. Mahtomedi (10-2) trails only the Pioneers in a race for the Metro East Conference title and hopes to host a home playoff game for the first time in recent memory.
The 6-foot-1 Greene, a four-year starter and four-time all-conference player, averages 19.7 points and 11.4 rebounds per game for the Zephyrs. She’s only the second Mahtomedi girl to be offered a Division I basketball scholarship, and the first since 1999.
“She has transformed Mahtomedi girls’ basketball,” said Zephyrs coach Dan Greene, who is also Ali’s father. “Now all these young girls have a role model. These young girls are now believing they can play Division I college basketball if they go to Mahtomedi. Our numbers are way up, and the girls are playing AAU at an earlier age. I think that’s way bigger than any stats she’s putting up. Mahtomedi girls’ basketball is relevant now.”
Greene, who also played volleyball and golf for Mahtomedi, said basketball has always been her first love and something she calls her “getaway place.” Her high level of play on her team at St. Jude of the Lake Catholic School prompted the league to change its rules.
“I would always steal the ball before they got to halfcourt,” she said. “So they made the rule you can’t start guarding until they get to the halfcourt line.”
Dan Greene has been Ali’s coach since she was in fourth grade.
“I like it a lot,” Ali Greene said. “We’re kind of like brother and sister, because we’re very similar. Sometimes we’ll butt heads, but we don’t really fight about anything. I wouldn’t want anyone else to be my coach except him.”
Just two years ago Mahtomedi went 4-22 and lost by an average of nearly 20 points per game. Four of the Zephyrs’ current five starters — Greene, fellow seniors Amanda Graff and Makenna Wynveen, and sophomore Marisa Gustafson — played on that squad and have experienced the ups and downs.
“Mahtomedi girls’ basketball was kind of a laughingstock,” Ali Greene said. “That’s what people thought. They’d schedule us for their Senior Night, because they knew they’d win. I think we’ve definitely turned it around.”
Mahtomedi is now hoping it can be a surprise story in the section playoffs, where fifth-ranked Roseville and perennial power White Bear Lake will be the favorites.
“This has always been our dream,” Ali Greene said. “We’ve been talking about it since we were sophomores — our senior year is going to be the year. I think we’re right there.”