Hooten, Quitman focused on strong postseason run

By Levi Gilbert

Taylor Hooten is striving for excellence and continuing to build on the success of Quitman Lady Bulldog basketball. In three years as a starter, the junior has helped lead Quitman to more than 80 wins, and she’s not finished yet. 

“I want to be remembered as the player that nobody wanted to guard or be guarded by,” Taylor Hooten said. “I want to be known as the player that gave everything she could in every game that she played.”

Quitman High School’s Taylor Hooten is a member of this year’s 501 Basketball Team, sponsored by Conway Regional Health System and First Security Bank. (Mike Kemp photo)

After falling in the state championship a year ago, Taylor and her fellow Lady Bulldogs are singularly focused on working their way back to the state title game. 

“If you watch her play, you will see she is the floor general and has a great knowledge of the game,” said Timothy Hooten, her father and head coach. “Also, she is a tremendous defensive player as she has shut down the supposedly best guards in the conference. She was Quitman’s No. 1 3-point shooter last season and leading scorer. She also led the team in assist and steals and was second on the team in rebounding.

“She is No. 1 in her class academically. She is involved in Future Farmers of America in livestock showing and also in four other sports — volleyball, cross country, softball and track.”

Taylor Hooten was selected to this year’s 501 Basketball Team — 34 players representing the best the 501 has to offer both on and off the court. The team is sponsored by Conway Regional Health System and First Security Bank. The junior guard was nominated by Timothy Hooten.

Taylor is averaging 15 points per game and had a game-high of 24 points earlier in the season. 

“This team has no seniors and will receive all players back next season,” Taylor said. “We have had a successful season and are working to return to the title game. Right now, we have a guaranteed spot going into regionals. If we play as we have been known to play, we’ll be right there with both Bigelow and Melbourne to have a run for first in the regional.”

Despite all the challenges that COVID-19 has brought, Quitman has continued to play at a championship level.

“Our school has been luckier than most with COVID,” Taylor said. “Our faculty and staff work extremely hard to make sure that we are following AAA guidelines and maintain proper distance at all times. Sadly, a lot of our games have gotten canceled due to COVID. I would say the worst thing about it is the fact that we never know if we actually have a game until we start to play.”

Taylor has grown up in a family of athletes. Her older sister, Rieley, led Quitman to state championships in cross country, track and basketball a few years back.

“She left a huge pair of shoes to fill, and I use her as motivation to be as successful as she has been,” Taylor Hooten said. “There is rarely a time when I am not doing something in the athletic field whether it be training or playing, but if I don’t have a game, I like to go on runs with my dog. I also show sheep and cattle through my FFA and 4H chapter, where I spend a tremendous amount of time training and working with those animals. I also spend a lot of time training and coaching little kids in many different sports all depending on what they are interested in. I am also at the top of my class in academics.”

Quitman was scheduled to begin district tournament play this week, but the schedule is uncertain due to inclement weather.

Levi GIlbert