Ball Above All

Junior Kennedy Taylor seeks a return trip to the state tournament

Photo by Josie Torres

Michael Owens, Staff Writer

     Junior Kennedy Taylor prepares to lead the undefeated Lady Cougars to the state tournament for the third straight year.

So far this season, the team is ranked third in the state with a 7-0 record. Taylor thinks the team this year has the needed mixture of guards and bigs along with a vastly deeper bench.

“It has been exciting making it to state the last two seasons,” Taylor said. “I feel like if we put in the work, we definitely have a chance to win the whole thing.”

The Lady Cougars lost seniors from last year, including three starters that not only made a difference in the scorebook but also influenced the team off the court. This year’s team has a very close chemistry, thanks in part to senior Mollie Elfrink, the team’s captain.

I was friends with all the seniors from last year and they gave me good advice,” Taylor said. “The only senior on our team this year, Mollie Elfrink, will give us leadership and help us get further.” Taylor has become the kind of player the team looks to when they need a quick bucket.

     “We all have a connection and know where everyone is at all times on the court,” Taylor said.

Taylor also has had a lot of guidance from coaches over the years, including her Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) coaches and her NW coach Tyler Stewart. Her playing style also mirrors players she looks up to, including former Lady Cougar Brooklynn Wagner, WNBA player Candance Parker and former NBA player Tim Duncan. She watches other forwards and tries to emulate their techniques in her own game.

“Coach Stewart is really hard on me and I understand why. He knows I can be better,” Taylor said. “He is not going to go easy on me because I am older. It is his coaching style and it’s the same for everyone.”

     Taylor being on the team makes it a lot easier for Stewart to control the speed of the game

“Kennedy makes some aspects of the game easier,” Stewart said. “She does a really good job and there aren’t a lot of teams that we play that have anyone bigger and more athletic. She definitely puts her imprint on the game.”

Taylor has brought a modern style to her game.

“People expect me to stay in the paint because of my size, but I really prefer to play on the outside,” Taylor said. “It is such a different perspective and you don’t have to stand in the middle wondering when you are going to get the ball.”

Having such a controlling presence on the court gives a calming reassurance to the guards on the team.

“Being able to have Kennedy as our post on the court makes a huge difference on how the game goes,” sophomore Ericka Ojeda said. “Not many teams have a six-foot post player who can work the inside of the point. We can count on her posting in the middle to get layups and grabbing rebounds after missed shots, giving her another chance .”

     Taylor started playing basketball in the fourth grade but was not serious about the sport until two years later.

“When I was in sixth grade, I came to watch a basketball game here and decided I wanted to play with that much support,” Taylor said. “That is when I began my competitive career.”

Having Taylor on the team brings something to the squad that play drawn up on a whiteboard can bring.

“Playing with Kennedy makes the game more fun and changes how we play,” Ojeda said.