Steve Hillman called it one of the ugliest ankle sprains he had ever seen.
As David Gorsline went in for a layup during a Dec. 9 basketball game against Bettendorf, the Pleasant Valley High School junior slipped on the floor, his left ankle gave out and he landed on it.
“I’ve had ankle sprains before, but nothing popped or hurt that bad,” Gorsline recalled. “When I finally got back up, I knew it was really bad.”
Gorsline missed the next four games with a high-ankle sprain and has spent the second half of the season trying to recover and regain his form on the court.
After rigorous physical therapy, Gorsline is back making an impact on both ends of the floor for PV heading into Wednesday’s Iowa Class 4A state quarterfinal against top-ranked Cedar Rapids Kennedy.
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“Jumping was really hard at first,” Gorsline said. “It still kind of bothers me every now and then after a bunch of jumps, but I’m grateful for how it healed.
“It is good to have it the way it is right now.”
His presence has made a substantial difference for the Spartans (19-5).
Gorsline scored 12 points and grabbed nine rebounds in PV’s substate semifinal win over Bettendorf. He followed with 15 points and four rebounds in the substate final triumph over Dubuque Senior.
“We’re finally the team we thought we were going to be earlier in the year,” said Hillman, in his 15th season leading the Spartans. “He gives us such an extra weapon. He’s our best offensive rebounder, he’s shooting it really well from the perimeter now and he’s our best perimeter defender.
“He’s an all-conference type of player who has been injured.”
Ankle injuries are never good for a basketball player, especially Gorsline who plays with a high motor and feasts on jumping to create second- and third-chance opportunities for the Spartans.
Gorsline averaged more than three offensive rebounds a game last season. That number is around two this season as he has battled the injury.
“He’s a workhorse,” senior Connor Borbeck said. “He gets two or three offensive rebounds a game that changes the whole mentality of things. It inspires myself and others to get offensive rebounds as we’re watching him work his (butt) off.
“It’s not fun facing off against him in practice. I’m glad he’s on my team.”
Hillman said Gorsline’s absence impacted his team.
“When he was down and out, it affected our group not having him out there with his energy,” Hillman stated.
Gorsline has played in every game since the start of the calendar year, but it wasn’t until the closing week of the regular season that Hillman could sense the 6-footer was entirely back.
“When he was gimping around out there, he just didn’t have the same lift on his shot and he didn’t have the explosion to go after offensive rebounds,” Hillman said. “He fought through it, but it was a factor in how he played.
“Right before the postseason, we saw a little bit more confidence and he’s taken off in the postseason.”
Gorsline knocked down three 3-pointers in the substate win versus Bettendorf. He buried two long-distance shots and snatched three offensive rebounds against Dubuque Senior.
Also a contributor at running back and linebacker on the PV football team, Gorsline spent more mornings during the fall working with Jordan Delp on his jump shot.
"With some of the guys we lost from last year, I knew I needed to step it up," Gorsline said. "I've worked on my jump shot a lot."
But more than his points, his grit and relentlessness are the biggest components he brings to a PV squad that starts four juniors.
"Ever since I was little, I've loved sports," he said. "Playing football has helped my toughness. I always want to win, and if that comes down to getting the ball for that to happen, that's what I like to do."
The Spartans likely will need more of that production from Gorsline to have an opportunity to beat Kennedy.
Kennedy has won 20 of its 22 games by double figures and already has 51- and 28-point postseason wins over Mississippi Athletic Conference foes Davenport West and North Scott.
The Cougars are heavy favorites to move on to the semifinals for the second straight season, but Hillman's team has relished the underdog role recently. It conquered the top two seeds in the substate to reach the state tournament.
"We have a lot of confidence in ourselves," Borbeck said. "Obviously, the state doesn't have confidence in us, so we're going to get that chip back on our shoulder like we've had since the Bettendorf game."
Hillman said his team played Kennedy last summer and faced them in the Hall of Pride Scrimmage in November. That, coupled with facing a Moline squad that is in the Illinois Class 4A state semifinals, has equipped PV for this challenge.
"When we played Waukee a couple years ago at state when they were loaded, our guys didn't know until we stepped on the floor how good they were," Hillman said. "Our guys already have seen Kennedy in the summer and in our scrimmage.
"Our guys know Kennedy is really good and we respect that, but they also know they can play with them. If we guard and rebound, we've got a shot."
Gorsline provides both of those ingredients for a team riding a 10-game win streak.
"We have a lot of guys who contribute in many different ways," he said. "We're really hot right now and playing well.
"If we can stick together as a team and focus on us, we can do just fine."