COLUMN: Jake's takes: Lady Tigers senior leadership paying off mid-season

Jan. 14—Throughout the season the Lady Tigers have proven to be a problem. This season THS has been hard to impossible to put down even when it looks like they are down for the count. Late runs, lead changes and back-and-forth games have mostly finished with one result; a Lady Tigers win.

Throughout the season there seems to be one answer that keeps producing results on why they can close games; maturity. The Lady Tigers boast an old roster that has experience in the right situations. Madi Matthews, Kori Rainwater, Jaydyn Buttery, Taylyn Dick and Jersey Retzloff make up a starting lineup of all seniors. On top of that, the Lady Tigers also have a senior coming off the bench in Paisley Qualls. The six players that make up the Lady Tigers' senior class all have good experience in the State Tournament and all bring something different to the table.

Rainwater comes in as a multi-time Metro Lakes Conference Player of the Year. This season Rainwater has continued to play in a dominant fashion. Playing as a center, Rainwater is key in keeping the Lady Tigers relevant in the paint on offense and defense.

While Rainwater has been the leading scorer for the Lady Tigers this season, Jaydyn Buttery has been a strong second option and sometimes leading scorer for the Lady Tigers. At six foot, Buttery is strong not only down low but also from three-point range as she constantly ranks near the top for THS.

Retzloff is a solid contributor who brings solid defense to the Lady Tigers. On top of that, Retzloff fills in the gaps on offense and has consistently found herself scoring in double figures.

This season Madi Matthews has been a player that wears many hats for the Lady Tigers. While she has played solid defense all year, including a lockdown performance against Coweta, Matthews adds several different facets to the Lady Tigers offense. The senior can score from all three zones.

According to THS Head Coach David Qualls, Taylyn Dick is the best three-pointer shooter he has coached. Dick has shown senior leadership this season as the resident look from three-point range.

In the limited time that I have seen Paisley Qualls come off the bench, she has provided solid defense for the Lady Tigers. Along with that Qualls has slowly but surely been regaining her touch on the offensive side of the ball.

The older talent has been paying off this season. In recent games against CHS and Bishop Kelly the Lady Tigers held on despite having teams give them a run for the lead. Against CHS, the Lady Tigers weathered the storm despite five late lead changes. Against BKHS, the Lady Tigers were able to hold on despite a late surge.

The six seniors are not only key for starting every game for the Lady Tigers but are good guidance for the younger players. Underclassmen like Carsyn Gilbert and Lauren Stephens have been able to go under the wings of the older players. The influence is obvious as Gilbert and Stephens have shown improvements as the season goes on.

Having a talented upperclassman group is key in any team making a run at a State Title, but the Lady Tigers sit in the perfect spot with their six seniors.

Not many coaches have such a wealth of senior talent, so coach Qualls should consider himself lucky to boast such a lineup.

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