Most athletes are tough -- the bumps and bruises a player accumulates during the course of a long season are proof enough that it takes some measure of dedication and loyalty to play competitive sports.
But there aren't a lot of athletes out there who show the kind of toughness that Southeast junior guard Lydia Wallbrown has displayed.
After missing most of her sophomore season due to a back injury, Wallbrown spent her off-season rehabilitating and training her body to get back into top form.
But even though she returned to the court this year, that top form she worked for came with a great deal of pain.
"After almost a year of medical treatments and interventions, we recently discovered a genetic abnormality," Wallbrown's mother, Jessica Wallbrown said. "Lydia has six lumbar vertebrae instead of five and the extra one appears defective."
Tests showed that Wallbrown's "extra" vertebrae had two previously healed stress fractures and a third that had not healed -- a discovery that finally revealed the course of Wallbrown's constant back pain.
With the permission of Wallbrown's doctors and parents, the junior guard has returned to the Pirates' rotation and was fitted with a back brace that she has to wear at all times.
Southeast head coach Bob Dunn said that Wallbrown's return has come with some limitations, but her grit has still made her a valuable piece to their championship chase.
"Lydia has had to be limited somewhat," Dunn said. "But she is the type of kid who doesn't want to be limited, so she pushed through and endured -- even though she could easily shut it down.
"She really wants to finish this season right and she's a big part of our success this year," Dunn added. "Certainly, we're blessed she's willing to push through the pain -- a lot of people could not endure what she's had to go through."
Listed as Southeast's third-smallest player at 5-foot-4, Wallbrown could be forgiven for taking ta gingerly approach to the game.
But that has not been the case at all, Dunn said.
"Lydia is one of our smallest payers, but she is third on team in rebounds," Dunn said. "That speaks a lot to the kind of toughness she has.
"Lydia only knows one speed and she doesn't have the switch to turn that off, even if her back is hurting," Dunn added. "So that's where communication between her and (the coaches) has been critical and she has been great in that regard."
METRO STILL UP FOR GRABS?
Norton's surprising loss to Springfield on Saturday has made the final stretch of the Metro Division season interesting for at least one other team.
With two losses in the leaguer - both coming at the hands of Norton -- the Ravenna Ravens are realistically the only other team that could still be thinking about a league championship.
The Ravens close out their season with five winnable games against Crestwood, Kent Roosevelt, Coventry, Field and Springfield. Ravenna has already beaten all five of those squads and is set to get the three toughest -- Roosevelt, Field and Springfield -- at home.
Norton still has to lose one more time for Ravenna to have a chance at a share of a fourth-straight league crown. On the Panthers' schedule remains Coventry, Field, Crestwood, Streetsboro and a season finale at Roosevelt on Feb. 13.
If the Ravens do somehow get back into a share of the Metro Division title, they would become the first basketball teams -- boys or girls -- to win four-straight league titles (2010-13) since the formation of the PTC at the start of the 2005 season.