March 7th, 2015. That’s the last time the Lady Tiger basketball team lost a game in their region. That was over four years ago, and the public is saying that this will finally be the season that Murray High steps down, but they said that last year too.
New head coach Tom Foust thinks his team can prove the world wrong once again.
“Last year, we knew what we had coming back, and again, we know what we have coming back this year,” Foust said. “The girls are ready to prove everybody wrong.”
When returning to the court last season, Murray High was missing three impactful seniors from the 2017 team — Alexis Burpo, Alexandria Mayes, and Macey Turley. Those three athletes had moved across town to play for Murray State. Without them, everyone thought 2018 would be the year the Lady Tigers lost it all — but they didn’t.
Murray High kept doing what they do best: cutting down nets. They ended the year with a 28-4 season record and were 18-0 in the region, and the Lady Tigers have no intentions to stop here. Even though they’ll be missing team leaders like Lizzie Curtis and Parker Greer this season, Murray High isn’t done yet.
New head coach Tom Foust said, “Over the last two years, we’ve graduated quite a bit. It would have been easy to feel sorry for ourselves in what we lost as far as our leading scorers, our seniors and the quality of kids that they were.”
But Tom Foust knows who he has coming back, and there is no reason he or anyone else should feel sorry for the Lady Tigers.
Senior Calli Carver is a force to be reckoned with. In the 2018-2019 season, she led her team with 257 rebounds, averaging 8.6 per game. She was also the second-leading scorer for the Lady Tigers, totaling 368 points by the end of the season for an average of 12.3 points per game.
Senior Jamera Jones has no lack of experience either. She started in 26 games last season and Tom Foust said she has stepped up her leadership qualities tremendously since then.
But the talent doesn’t stop with the Lady Tigers’ seniors.
“We have two absolutely fantastic stud guard juniors in Mackenzie Turley and Angela Gierhart,” Tom Foust said. “I think they are a little under the radar, more so Mackenzie. They’re two of the hardest working kids I’ve been around.”
Gierhart scored 246 points and pulled in 133 rebounds last season. Turley scored 191 points and had 76 rebounds.
“I think the hidden gem is Mackenzie Turley,” Tom Foust said. “Everybody here has seen it in practice, and we are waiting for it to blossom into game situations. She has put in a tremendous amount of time. Even in our scrimmages, she sees things that she shouldn’t be seeing as a junior guard. I’m looking forward to her making a big step this year.”
Obviously, as a new coach, Tom Foust is going to be adding some new wrinkles to the Lady Tigers game plans, but he isn’t completely scrapping everything. He admires the work that his brother Wyatt Foust put into the team these past several years, and since Tom Foust had been the assistant coach, the girls are transitioning to the new leadership without any hiccups.
“They let it be known once my brother was leaving that they wanted me to stay,” Tom Foust said. “That meant the world to me. There’s no place I would rather be. I always had a really good relationship with all of the kids, not just the JV but with the varsity. I worked so closely with Wyatt at all levels of the program. It was kind of a seamless fit. We’ve already changed up a few things that have been successful for us in practicing and scrimmaging. I’m excited to go against live competition and see where we’re at.”
And with the way the Lady Tigers’ schedule is looking, Tom Foust won’t have to wait long to experience tough competition.
“It’s not as daunting as it was the year we had the big three that went to Murray State, but we still have some quality opponents,” Tom Foust said. “If you’re in this region, you can’t really get a cupcake schedule. You’re going to play tough teams.”
Not only is the region tough, but the Lady Tigers’ district is the hardest in the area.
“I wish it wasn’t,” Tom Foust said. “We have three of the best teams in the region in our district. I still like our odds, for anybody in our district, you could win the district or you could not make it out of it. It’s kind of up in the air.”
The three main competitors are Murray High, Calloway County, and Marshall County.
“We’ve got one of the best players if not the best player across the street (in Lady Laker Charlee Settle). She’s a tremendous, tremendous talent. Marshall, they are ahead of schedule. I think they’re probably the favorites to win the region this year, so far.”
However, Tom Foust isn’t letting public opinion get to him.
“We are not satisfied by any means,” he said. “We want to keep cutting these nets down. Lord willing, we will get the opportunity to do so. There’s a lot of tough teams. I’m not holding my breath that we duplicate years past, but I believe in this team 100% that they’re going to surprise a lot of people.”
The 2019-2020 Lady Tiger team isn’t trying to repeat the past four years, but instead, they’re trying to get the same results in their own, unique way.
“I don’t think there’s any pressure really,” Tom Foust said. “I know it’s easy to say that and think it’s just filler, but I don’t feel it. The kids don’t feel it. We’re a different team. Those were different teams. They’re different kids, different numbers on the floor. We’re trying to build our own thing right now. We’ve got a motto: We don’t want to be the group that lets go of the rope. We want to keep this thing going. They’re anxious to build their own identity.”
The Lady Tigers will have their first chance to present that identity to the public on December 2nd when they travel to Mayfield to take on the Lady Cardinals at 7:30 p.m.
“The fire that these girls have to prove everybody wrong, it gets me excited to see how things are going to go,” Tom Foust said.