Wyatt Foust knew what he was getting when he took the reins of the Murray High School girls’ basketball program: big talent and bigger expectations.
The Tigers, seventh in this week’s Cantrall Ratings, on Sunday won the girls’ All “A” Classic championship, overcoming Shelby Valley in a 53-40 decision at Eastern Kentucky University’s McBrayer Arena. It was the second small-school state title for the Tigers in the last three seasons, and the first for Foust, whose only previous girls’ head coaching job was at Notre Dame from 2013-2016.
He assisted the Owensboro Catholic boys’ team last season before accepting the Murray girls’ job this offseason after Rechelle Turner resigned to fill the women’s basketball head coaching vacancy at Murray State University. Turner left behind three talented seniors — Alexis Burpo, Lex Mayes and Macey Turley — who signed as part of her first Racers class in the fall.
That trio comprised a core that helped Murray make the girls’ Sweet Sixteen each of the last two seasons, and is expected to lead it to another state-tournament appearance come March.
The toughest part about coming into a promising situation? Not disrupting it.
“With all the success they’ve had and the talent that we have, we know that this is the expectation,” Foust said after winning the All “A” title. “I probably put a lot of pressure on myself to just not screw it up. ... Coach Turner just did an unbelievable job of supporting us and letting the kids know ‘Hey, you guys are getting a good coach who knows what he’s doing.’ And the kids from day one, they’ve bought in.”
Mayes was named MVP of the tournament after a 22-point, eight-rebound effort for the Tigers (22-2) in the finals. She was 5-for-10 from beyond the arc and scored 15 points of her points in the second half, at the start of which Murray trailed the unranked Wildcats (19-4), 27-22.
The Tigers gave up too many points in the paint in the first half and wanted to make Shelby Valley shoot more from the perimeter in the second half.
“We know they’re not a terrific three-point shooting team, but they move the ball better than any team in the state,” Foust said. “And that’s not just me saying something. I’ve seen most of the pretty good teams around, and that team moves the ball better than most boys’ teams.”
The plan worked; Shelby Valley was 1-for-8 from the field in the third quarter and 1-for-4 from beyond the arc. Murray held the Wildcats scoreless for most of the quarter before Summer Rose connected on a three-pointer with about 50 seconds left, and the Tigers won the period, 13-3, to take the lead for good.