Elliot Taylor has started 121 games in her college career at Lyon.
Game 122 will be this Thursday at the women’s Division I NAIA national tournament in Billings, Mont.
The game against the University of Pikeville (Ky.) gets going at 9 a.m.
The trip west will be something new to Taylor, who graduated from Cabot in 2013 and is the daughter of Lance and Tanya Taylor.
“I have never been to Montana,” she said. “My freshman year we went to Kentucky for the national tournament, and the last two years have been in Missouri. So this will be a new experience for me.”
This is Lyon’s sixth consecutive national tournament appearance and the annual post-season gathering has been held at different sites, after being hosted by Jackson, Tenn., for decades.
“Luckily, we are flying to Montana, so I do not have to worry about an awful, long, bus ride,” she said. “We have never flown before so we are all excited for the experience, and I am blessed our athletic department has allowed us to do so.”
Her parents aren’t so lucky.
“We’re going to drive,” Lance Taylor said. “I mean you have to drive. You don’t know how long they’re going to be there, so how do you book a flight home?”
For her parents, that’s 1,392 miles, one-way, from Cabot to Billings.
“It is 20 hours,” he said. “And we still don’t know how we are going to go. You can drive up to Kansas City, or you can go to Denver and go up. It will take us a couple of days either way.”
Lyon enters the tournament as the No. 3 seed after losing to Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tenn., in the conference finals last week.
The Scots were placed in what the tournament is calling the Duer Bracket and are joined by Lewis-Clark State University (Idaho), William Penn University (Iowa), Wayland Baptist University (Texas), Bethel University (Tenn.), Westmont College (Calif.) and Louisiana State University-Shreveport.
The daughter of a coach, her dad Lance was at Greenwood before becoming the executive director of the Arkansas Activities Association, and her mom, Tanya, was a star at Lyon College when it was then known as Arkansas College.
Tanya Britt Taylor was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2001 and was a teammate of current Lyon College coach Tracy Stewart-Lange.
“Basketball has always been a part of my life,” Taylor said. “We were always watching it, playing it, or coming to and from a gym. I think that helped me get to play basketball at a college level. I was never the fastest, strongest, and I definitely could not jump the highest but I knew the game backwards and forwards. Being a smart player allowed me to overcome, or at least even out the playing field, too many athletic disadvantages I have faced.”
In addition to starting 121 games, Taylor has been an academic all-conference selection as a freshman, sophomore and junior. Senior year seems a pretty good guess for Taylor, who plans to attend medical school next fall, but that team hasn’t been announced yet.
“One lesson my family has showed me over the years is that they will always be my biggest supporters,” Taylor said. “Through the losses and wins they were always supporting, teaching, and loving me through it, and I could not have done it without them. I cannot emphasize enough how lucky I am to have a family that has supported me the way mine has. I am extremely blessed.”
Her younger sister, Leighton, is a freshman at Arkansas Tech and also playing college basketball.
“Leighton got some quickness [that] I did not inherit,” Taylor said. “She works extremely hard and can make some moves on me, but she still cannot beat me 1 on 1.”
Taylor player at Cabot for Carla Crowder, the veteran coach of the Lady Panthers, and whose influence she still feels.
“I usually get a weekly motivational text, a game day text telling me to block out and rebound, and a post- game text telling me what I need to fix and that she is proud and loves me” Taylor said of her former coach. “I would not be where I am at today without Coach Crowder’s guidance. She taught me how basketball is so much more than winning and losing on the scoreboard but rather the relationships that you build when you give everything you have to something bigger than yourself. She cares so much for every one of her players, and she will be a mentor of mine for life.”
A 5-foot-10 forward, Taylor has averaged 9.1 points a game and 4.8 rebounds for her career. Her best year, on the court, was statistically her sophomore year where she averaged 10.2 points a game.
Her best year off the court might be this year as Taylor was named the school’s Homecoming Queen last Fall during football season.
“I was totally shocked that I won homecoming queen,” she said. “I blame my teammates. They campaigned hard for me when they found out I was nominated. I am pretty sure some students voted out of intimidation. But I was very honored!”
It was also a double dip for the Taylor family as he mother was named the school’s Homecoming Queen her senior year, a fact that absolutely delighted the school’s then-President Donald Weatherman.
“I honestly did not know my Mom was Homecoming Queen until that day when I was getting ready,”she said.
Weatherman, gregarious and a fixture at the school where he had also taught, resigned in February after an unexpected health issue. He was set to retire at the end of this school year.
“Dr. Weatherman has been on our hearts and in our prayers,”Taylor said. “He was such a big supporter, even came to some of our preseason practices at 6 a.m. Coach Lange and him are very close, so she keeps us updated on his health. We pray every practice and game, before and after, and he is always included. Our conference tournament run was in his honor, and I expect the same for the National Tournament.”
“Best memory on the court? It is between cutting down the net after we won the conference tournament last season, or taking my very first charge. Between the smile on my face, Coach Lange’s, and my dad’s you would of thought I would of hit a game winning half court shot. Nope, just a charge after many years of trying to get me to take one.”