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2020-21 GIRLS BASKETBALL PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Cayla Cowart, West Forsyth
Competitive spirit drives Cowart in junior season with Wolverines
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West Forsyth junior Cayla Cowart is the 2020-21 Forsyth County News Player of the Year after averaging 19 points, seven rebounds and three steals for the Wolverines. - photo by David Roberts

Cayla Cowart estimates she’s watched film from West Forsyth’s first-round loss to Norcross at least seven times. 

The film from West’s loss to South Forsyth in the Region 6-7A tournament? About five times.

“With South, I start sweating and I’m just like, ‘What is going on in this game?’ It was just not a good game,” Cowart said.

The Wolverines entered the region tournament on an 11-game winning streak, highlighted by a 47-39 win against region foe North Forsyth, as well as wins over talented non-region opponents such as Archer and Roswell.

But West dropped two of its final three games, falling 59-57 in a heartbreaker to South, then ending the season at Norcross for the second straight year, 50-40.

“I was really upset about it,” Cowart said. “I mean, I watch film 24/7 and I’ve probably watched that game at least seven times. Like, ‘What happened?’”

It’s that competitive spirit that helped build Cowart into the player she is today. 

When she was younger, she would play against her older brother, Casey Cowart, and his friends when they would come over.

“Well, we have a court across the street from us, like a full court. He always has his friends over and we play 21, pickup and stuff like that,” she said. “I’m really competitive, and I’m like, ‘Just because y’all are older and you’re guys, you don’t play basketball, so I’m obviously not going to let you beat me.’”

They rarely did.

Her disdain for North comes from her familiarity with the Raiders’ players.

Cowart once played on a rec league team with North junior Ali Jones, with Jones’ father as the coach. The team went undefeated.

“I hate losing to North,” Cowart said. “That’s the biggest game for me, because that’s my team that I should be on.”

Cowart averaged 19 points, seven rebounds and three steals per game this year for West, but her role as the team’s facilitator oftentimes doesn’t show up on the stat sheet.

“Offensively, yeah, that’s a big thing. I score some points,” Cowart said. “But also just helping people out in knowing what they do when they come on the court or go off, and why everything is happening.”

Despite the disappointing end to the season, West is in great shape for 2021-22. The Wolverines graduate only one senior this year – Haylee Dornan – and will return key players such as Calie Thrower [12 ppg, 3 rpg] and Molly Quincy [8 ppg, 6 rbg].

Cowart said she and West coach David May have identified areas where they feel the Wolverines need to improve, which include being more engaging and simulating a gameday atmosphere in practice.

West entered the season ranked No. 4 in Class 7A and will likely be a preseason darling come 2021-22.

This time, however, Cowart knows she and the Wolverines have the experience to play under those expectations.

“As a team, I think we have a lot to work on,” Cowart said. “Toward the end of the season, it didn’t end how we wanted, but you could see a lot of improvement inside the team, just like defensively and working the ball around the offense. Even like individually on the team, you could see a lot of people had just gotten better, and that’s exciting.”

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- photo by David Roberts