J. Michael Moore

It’s been a long season for Lady Topper basketball.

But before the final push for a championship begins, some awards were passed along.

Lady Topper coach Mary Taylor Cowles was honored as Coach of the Year while Shala Reese, a 6-1 senior from Easton, Texas, was named conference Player of the Year. She and teammate junior guard Leslie Logsdon were also named to the All-Conference team. Tiffany Porter-Talbert, a freshman from Manhattan Beach, Calif., was named Freshman of the Year. Senior team captain Kristina Covington was named as an honorable mention on the all-conference team.

Reese became the first Lady Topper to win the Player of the Year award since Lillie Mason in 1986.

Cowles guided her nine-player squad to a 19-8 regular-season record and a Sun Belt East Division Championship.

Western finished the conference season 12-2, the best mark in the league. After starting the season 5-7, Cowles was able to regroup her troops. The Lady Toppers have won 14 of their last 15 games and enter the Sun Belt Tournament on an 11-game winning streak.

This marks the first time since 1991 that a Lady Topper coach took the league’s top honor. Paul Sanderford won his second Coach of the Year award in ’91 after also taking the honor in 1986.

Reese, who was the Sun Belt Newcomer of the Year in 2002, has compiled 14 double-doubles so far this season. She also ranks second in the league in both scoring (16.4 ppg) and rebounding (9 rpg). Her .575 field goal percentage this season leads the Sun Belt, and her .581 career field goal percentage is on pace to shatter the WKU record.

Reese’s season came to a pinnacle in the middle of January when she became only the second Lady Topper in history to record back-to-back 30-point games in wins over Denver and North Texas.

The Lady Toppers open play in the conference tournament Saturday at Diddle Arena.

–J. Michael Moore