Taliyah Medina went through it all
The physical, emotional and spiritual course of the high school basketball career of Taliyah Medina, Bethlehem Press’s Female Player of the Year from Bethlehem Catholic High School, goes like this: freshman year was magical, sophomore year was good enough, junior year was anything but good, and senior year was her coming out time.
“Definitely freshman year, winning the state championship was my favorite year at Beca because the competition was so great,” Medina said. “Every single team had two or three great players. It was never a cakewalk, and there was never an easy game. We set the bar.”
Although the Hawks won the district championship in Medina’s sophomore year, they lost in the state quarterfinal, but Medina’s junior year was only the beginning of a comeback for both her and the Hawks.
Medina tore her ACL well before the basketball season began and it appeared it would threaten the Hawks’ future, but instead, it inspired it.
“That year wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows,” said Medina. “I had weak hips and that’s the reason I tore my ACL in the first place. It takes a lot out of you, having to relearn how to walk and run and not play for months.”
There was also an emotional toll on Medina, even when she got back in the gym.
“I’m not making shots. I wish I never got hurt. Where would I be if I never got hurt,” were the thoughts running through her head. And even though she was still a team member, not everyone outside the team saw it that way, and it was hurtful.
“But you can only think about striving to where you were before you got injured. Coming back, doing my best, overcoming that injury and that challenge in my life, I knew I could do it.”
Medina was always present at practices and games that year despite her injury.
“I stayed on the sidelines, and it allowed me to see games from a different perspective,” she said. “Mentally, I got a lot stronger. Spiritually, I found myself praying a lot more for good results and my relationship with God got stronger.”
Perhaps those are some of the things that allowed Medina to be the Hawks’ biggest cheerleader that season.
“I remember when the girls played Lancaster Catholic, I was screaming at the top of my lungs. My head hurt the entire game. They lost, but I was so proud of them that day,” said Medina. “They hung with that team and proved so many people wrong, and I thought, wow, what if they win states, and they won states. It was bittersweet, but I was so happy for those girls.”
Medina was fortunate in that she still had her senior year to play, but no one could have seen a coronavirus about to cancel PIAA state playoffs when the Hawks were headed to the quarterfinals.
Medina made the most of her playing time throughout the season, however, signing her letter of intent to play at Villanova University in November, and scoring her 1,000th point in January.
In fact, Medina finished her high school basketball career with 1,168 points, more than 600 rebounds, and more than 200 assists.
This past season, the Hawks were 29-0, and their record was 88-6 with Medina as a starter, but what impressed her coach and father Jose Medina the most was his daughter’s versatility.
“From the standpoint of coming back to be part of the group, she hadn’t played with some girls for over a year,” said Coach Medina. “Even when she was injured, she always came to practice and worked her tail off on the sideline. And then she was on the bench and in the locker room.
“Being able to rely on her for a needed bucket or rebound, we’ll have different people to fill that role next year, but I’m pretty sure during the season I’ll be thinking, ‘Man, I miss Taliyah right now.’”
Both father and daughter appreciated the opportunity to be coach and player together.
“As a dad, it was a dream to be able to coach my daughter, especially in her first year when the goal was to become a state champion. That was a magical year,” he said. “I’m not going to say it was always easy. We challenged each other, but my assistant coaches did a great job of conveying to her what I tried to.”
Medina leaves Becahi proud of a successful four-year girls’ basketball career.
“It’s been a crazy four years, and I’m proud of everything I’ve accomplished, but I haven’t done it alone. I did it with my teammates and coaches,” she said. “I just wanted to do good this year.”