Playground Notes: Looking at Cowles tells Lady Tops’ story

Danny Schoenbaechler

Her long brown hair sticks out above the Lady Topper huddle. With all that Mary Taylor Cowles has given to her team, height is the one thing she couldn’t teach.

Just looking at the second-year head coach tells the story of what happened in Tuesday’s Sun Belt Conference Tournament final.

The subtle light brown streaks in her hair resemble just what hit Western early in the game.

Middle Tennessee State scored the game’s first 11 points while the Lady Toppers missed their first eight shots.

The rest of the game would be spent waiting for Western’s comeback run. But the massive run never happened because as I said, these were subtle streaks.

As despair continued to grow, all eyes, including those of her players’, moved to Cowles.

They all appeared to ask, why was this happening?

This time the answer was in the coach’s clothes. Her red suit matched the brilliant red of the lane.

That is where her team missed 10 layups while allowing MTSU to score 38 points in the paint.

Groans slipped from the mouths of the Lady Topper faithful. These are a group of loyal fans who never turn their backs on these girls. But frustration can be hard to bottle.

Kind of like bottling the tournament’s most outstanding player Patrice Holmes.

In Western’s two wins against MTSU, senior guard Elisha Ford contained Holmes. A strained muscle in her hip prevented Ford from displaying her normal defensive intensity. This allowed Holmes to pour in 18 points.

By the time the game ended the story could be summed up by looking at Cowles’ feet. Laying beneath the Western bench would be the tears of exhausted Lady Toppers.

Leslie Logsdon and Tiffany Porter-Talbert’s tears may have been from frustration. The pair of all-Sun Belt performers combined for just 16 points on 8 of 28 shooting.

Beside them was Ford, who may have experienced her final game as a Lady Topper. The WNIT is still a possibility, but that was absent in the minds of the Western athletes.

With the team sitting on the bench waiting for the post-game festivities, Cowles didn’t have to console her team.

Instead she leaned against the scorer’s table and watched the product of her leadership recreated through someone else.

Junior Camryn Whitaker pulled her team together and talked to them. There may not have been anything that needed to be said, but it was the action that mattered.

While she may not have managed to bring her team to a second-consecutive title, she did bring the type of maturity any players’ parents would be proud of.

After the game, Cowles seemed like she had been running up and down the court with her players.

With red eyes and a scratchy throat, she stayed as positive as humanly possible.

“I really believe the future of our program is just so bright,” Cowles said.

She is right, this team will only get better. And with Cowles, Porter-Talbert, Whitaker and others still around, the future looks good for the Lady Toppers.

Danny Schoenbaechler is the Herald sports columnist and sports editor. You can reach him at [email protected]