After her first winter without basketball since she was a toddler, Ali Patberg was anxious to return to the court this season at Notre Dame.

The 2015 Miss Basketball and McDonald’s All-American from Columbus North’s comeback from an ACL tear, however, has been interrupted by another health ailment. A case of pneumonia caused her to be out of action for most of December.

“I’ve had a couple setbacks, but I haven’t let that bring me down,” Patberg said. “It’s been hard getting back into things and being myself again. When I get a chance, I’m ready to go.”

That certainly was the case the past two games. After not playing in a Jan. 16 loss, 71-69, at Tennessee, the redshirt-freshman point guard came off the bench to play 20 minutes and score six points for the sixth-ranked Fighting Irish in an 80-69 win at Boston College. Both are career-highs.

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Then Sunday, Patberg again played 20 minutes and again scored six points in a 77-55 win at North Carolina.

“Mentally, I always stay ready, and I know that I can only control my game and my attitude,” Patberg said. “In practice, I work hard, and I play like I’m ready to play in the game. I’m prepared.”

Patberg began the season playing a few minutes a game while spelling All-Atlantic Coast Conference point guard Lindsay Allen. But then Patberg developed a bad sore throat and started getting tired a lot.

A trainer tested her for mono, but said she had strep throat instead. Patberg thought she had bad virus and started having chest pain. She went to see a doctor, and fluid was found in her lungs.

Patberg was out of action for about 2 1/2 weeks. Fortunately for the business major, she was able to keep up with her classes and finished the fall semester with all A’s and B’s.

The week Patberg returned to the basketball court coincided with Notre Dame’s finals week, and the Irish did not have any practice that week. That allowed her extra time to work on her conditioning.

“I told her that sometimes God has plans for you,” said her father Ron, an assistant coach at North. “Maybe she got sick and had pneumonia because her knee wasn’t ready yet. The rest that she got from being sick I think helped her knee a lot.”

The Irish began the season ranked No. 1 in the country and stayed there until a 72-61 loss to reigning national champion UConn on Dec. 7. Notre Dame lost its ACC opener at North Carolina State, but has since won six consecutive conference games.

The Irish are 18-3 overall going into Thursday’s home game against Duke.

“You want to have a good record going into the (NCAA) tournament, but we just have to focus on getting better every day,” Patberg said. “You want to peak at the right time. We haven’t peaked yet.”

Patberg said she feels more a part of the team now that she’s playing this season. She feels a lot closer to her teammates and my coaches this year than last year.

On the court, Patberg has been trying to get back her explosive offensive game. But she’s been focused more on her defense and bringing intensity and passion to the team.

“Every day, I feel like I’m getting better and better,” Patberg said. “I’ve been guarding Lindsay a lot, and she’s been challenging me. Every day, I’m feeling closer to myself. Having a good attitude and controlling what I can control has been key for me.”

Ali Patberg

Name: Ali Patberg

High school: Columbus North

College: Notre Dame

Year: Redshirt-freshman

Height: 5-foot-10

Position: Point guard

Major: Business

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Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.