Apollo’s Shelbie Beatty (5) looks to pass during a March 1 game against Owensboro.

Shelbie Beatty is an overcomer.

A key figure in Apollo High School’s drive to its first 3rd Region championship since 1997, Beatty has overcome two serious health scares in the past six months.

In the fall, mononucleosis sidelined the 5-foot-9 combo guard for a month-and-a-half. Then, in January, Beatty contracted the COVID-19 virus, which put her on the shelf for another three weeks.

“Mono was a real struggle,” Beatty recalled. “My throat really swelled up and I just had no motivation for a long, long time — it took me quite a while to get over that.

“Then I got COVID early in the season. Again, I had a sore throat and I lost my taste and smell — at that point, I said, ‘Uh-oh!’ I pretty much knew I had it.”

Beatty’s perseverance through it all, however, has impressed E-Gals coach Natalie Payne, whose team will challenge 2nd Region champion Henderson County at 4 p.m. (CT) on Thursday in the opening round of the KHSAA State Tournament at Rupp Arena in Lexington.

“Shelbie’s been through a lot, but she hung in there, kept working at it, and she really came on for us in a big way at the end of the season,” Payne said. “Since the Owensboro Catholic game at our place (on March 6), she’s been a different player, and she’s played with confidence ever since.”

So much so that Payne has utilized Beatty at point guard down the stretch.

“Shelbie is a kid who’s willing to play any position, any role to help the team,” Payne said. “I think moving her to the point some has taken some pressure off Amaya (Curry), who is also very capable out front.

“Teams have been keying on Amaya and Kassidy (Daugherty) and having Shelbie at the point has opened up the floor for us because she can see over the defense so well. She’s also improved her defense, and having her back at full strength has made us a more dynamic team.”

For the season, Beatty played in 19 games, averaging 9 points and 4.2 rebounds per game overall, but her production has been much greater down the stretch. She shoots 42% from the field, including 34% from 3-point range, and makes 69% of her free throws.

Beatty concedes it took a while to regain her rhythm once she returned.

“At first, I was struggling, out of shape, just couldn’t seem to get the ball in the hole,” Beatty said. “But there was a point there in early March when everything just locked in, everything clicked — I’ve been fine ever since.”

Beatty also believes Apollo’s collective confidence can pay dividends for the program later this week.

“We all know what we’re capable of doing,” Beatty said. “We know we’re capable of going very far in the state tournament. We just need to continue to feed off each other’s confidence and energy, keep playing the type of good defense that turns into good offense. If we do that, we’re going to be just fine.”

Beatty fell in love with basketball at an early age, and her passion for the sport has never waned.

“I started playing at about the age of 5,” Beatty recalled. “Up to that point, I had tried a lot of other sports, but the very first time I touched a basketball and played in a game, I knew this was my sport, no doubt about it.

“And, during these hard times we’ve been through, it’s become my escape from everything — just me, the ball, and the goal. This has really helped get me through it all.”

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