Some high school athletes show a great deal of veteran leadership after a year or so on the varsity level. Now imagine the ability of a player to lead after six years of experience.
First Baptist senior guard Taylor Cox has been a starter on the Lions basketball team since she was in seventh grade. In that time she has learned what it takes to lead her team to victory — including district titles all four years the team has played a full varsity schedule.
"Playing since the seventh grade has definitely helped me feel more 'at home' on the court," Cox said. "I have been playing with some of these girls (Emily Lines and Ali Emerson) since the fifth grade. After playing for so long, things like plays, offense and passing has become second nature."
Because of her experience playing at the varsity level, Cox has been the epitome of a player being "an extension of the coaching staff" out on the floor according to her coach, Jennifer Lines.
"Taylor, as our point guard, was pushed into a leadership role on the court at a very young age," Lines said. "As Taylor's skills have developed and her leadership abilities have matured, so has our program."
Her willingness to do the little things that it takes to win also have her team rolling through another postseason.
Even though she didn't score a point against Southwest Florida Christian Academy in the 2A-District 10 championship, Cox was vital in the win, racking up four assists, four rebounds, and four steals while staying true to her role as the team's top defender on the perimeter.
"Taylor excels in the parts of the game that matter the most to her teammates and coaches," Lines said. "She plays unselfishly and with passion. She does all of the little things that you ask your players to do."
In a 53-21 blowout win over St. Petersburg-Canterbury, Cox had two points, but led her team with eight rebounds, five assists, and two steals.
"Advancing further and further each year has helped me gain the confidence and experience I need to be the best leader and captain I can be both on and off the court," Cox said.
"She doesn't have to score a point for us; her value to our team is in her heart and in her hustle," Lines said.
And even though she is a veteran by any standard, Cox, who doesn't plan to play in college and will instead focus on majoring in education at the University of North Carolina, is far from being grizzled.
"What is most special to me (after six years), is what has not changed," Lines said. "She still has an amazing love for the game, a unique coachable spirit, an unwavering love for her teammates, coaches and school, and a commitment to her team like no other."
"The biggest thing I've learned (in those six years) is realizing, and keeping, the big picture," Cox added. "The big picture helps us to remain focused."
Megan Langham, Barron Collier basketball — Had 16 points and seven rebounds as the Cougars beat Baker in the regional quarterfinals.
Emily Lines, First Baptist basketball — Her game-high 17 points led the Lions to a win over St. Petersburg-Canterbury in the regional quarterfinals.
Ariel Martinez, Naples softball — Earned two pitching victories last week for the Golden Eagles.
Grayson Pinholster, Community School basketball — Led Seahawks with 16 points in a regional quarterfinal victory over North Palm Beach-Benjamin.