Regan Atkins faced adversity in getting back on the hardwood with the Laurel High girls basketball team and has been a standout player for the 2022-23 season.

Atkins posted a career-high of 34 points in the first round of the WPIAL Class 3A playoffs to defeat Burrell, 64-36, last week.

“I started shooting well and it all just went off after that. My teammates, obviously, they are always helping me to score,” Atkins said. “When I had the seven 3s and I wanted to get eight, they were flying all over the place and setting screens. I appreciate them so much for that. Starting off hot, I was five for six in the first and second quarter. That definitely carried on through the rest of the game.”

Atkins netted seven 3-pointers, which tied the school record for most 3s in a single game. She shares the record with Faith Gibson.

“I just thought she was in rhythm, on balance and she had so much confidence. It just seemed like she was real consistent with her stroke. She was just on fire,” Laurel coach Jim Marcantino said of Atkins’ performance. “She had five 3s in the first half and everything else started opening up for her and she started driving. This year, she’s more multidimensional where if she’s hitting the jump or they come out she can drive baseline and get it in the paint or she can also pull up. She did a good job against Burrell. She was able to mix it up and I think that’s why she had so many points. Just her overall game has improved so much.”

For her efforts, Atkins was named Lawrence County Athlete of the Week as voted on by the New Castle News sports staff.

In her junior year, Atkins suffered an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injury, which sidelined her for the majority of the season.

“That was probably my biggest moment of adversity I’ve ever had to go through. I never had a major injury like that. I’ve watched people go through injuries but I myself have never had to go through that,” Atkins said. “When it happened I kind of had to look at myself and be like, ‘Okay, this is just a little road bump. I’m going to have to get through it. I’m going to have to work harder than I did before.’ It also made my 1,000 points pretty sweet for me because I had to work that much harder for that. It was just something I had to work a lot harder for. It made this season and my success a lot better to me.”

Marcantino said that Atkins helping the team and working through the injury at the same time was impressive to him.

“I used to kid her and say she was a coach. She would come in here and constructively help the other kids. She has such great leadership ability and she’s always been that way but it was more quiet,” Marcantino said. “She’s really helping a lot more. That was just the great thing when she’d come in and talk to them about certain things they could do when they go to the hole like jump, stop or whatever. They really adhered to that. It helped them a lot.”

A daughter of Theresa and Todd Atkins, the senior has been playing basketball since the third grade.

“When my sister (Brooke Atkins) was in fifth and sixth grade I’d practice with them; the older kids. That was fun,” Atkins said. “They always included me in that kind of stuff. I always liked shooting. My dad started taking me to those practices and after that it just became my favorite sport.”

Atkins said Laurel’s biggest strength this season is, “Our defense,” adding, “We take a lot of passion in our defensive game. I think a lot of our offensive is driven through that. We’re all friends off the court so it just makes everything so much more fun for us on the court.”

Marcantino commented that Atkins is a jack of all trades for the Lady Spartans.

“She guards the best player, the best opponent, everytime. Her strength is just her overall game,” Marcantino said. “She plays defense and I put her on a center, I can put her on a guard or I can put her on a forward. She can play anybody. I think her greatest thing is her intensity and her focus. That helps her in both areas of offense and defense.”

Where does Atkins feel most comfortable on the hardwood?

“I’d say shooting guard,” she said. “I don’t mind playing underneath but I’d say shooting guard. I’ve played that my whole life. I grew in seventh grade so I had to start moving down low. Last year, Reese Bintrim didn’t play and we lost our center. I had to play more of the big position. Tori (Atkins) is now taller than me.”

Atkins is one of six seniors on Laurel’s roster.

“We played together for so long so we all kind of know each other, know our strengths and know each other pretty well,” Atkins said of the senior dynamic. “It helps on the court to be able to help each other out. As far as the younger kids, I feel like having a good senior group to look up to...they know next year we’re all going to be gone so they’ll have to step it up. I feel like them being able to learn from us and stuff like that is really helpful for them.”

Atkins also plays alongside her sister Tori Atkins.

“My mom was so excited for this year and last year but mostly this year because she knew she was actually going to be on the court a lot this year,” Atkins said. “My mom has always wanted to watch us play sports together. It’s exciting for me too because we’re sisters and so obviously this isn’t a time we’re ever going to get back. I love her.”

Atkins also competes in volleyball and track and field for Laurel.

Atkins praised Marcantino.

“He’s given me lessons since I was in the sixth grade,” Atkins said. “I’ve had him as a coach for a long time. This adjustment this year wasn’t anything I guess that was hard to adjust to because he’s coached me for so long.”

Atkins plans on playing basketball at collegiate level but because of her injury last year she is waiting to see her options. She said she is comparing Division II and Division III schools but hopes to major in Biology and then go into a PA program.

“She’s taught me a lot of how to deal with adversity and challenges,” Marcantino said of Atkins. “She’s taught all of us that and I think it’s a great life lesson because we have challenges every day. She’s taught us that from last year. I told the girls, ‘The way she handled that situation was just fantastic. Now, she’s rewarded from it.’”

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