Usery, Sacred Heart aim to finish strong

by Levi Gilbert

The Sacred Heart Lady Rebels have the end of the regular season in sight, but there’s still much left to play for as the team could finish second in the 1A 5 North with a strong finish.

For senior Taylor Usery, this will be her last chance at a strong finish on the basketball court.

“At the beginning of the year we set an ultimate goal — a state championship,” Usery said. “We’re working hard every single day to achieve our goal. I plan to continue working hard and becoming a better player and leader on my team.”

Usery, a senior forward for Sacred Heart, was selected to this year’s 501 Basketball Team — 35 players representing the best the 501 has to offer both on and off the court. She was nominated by her head coach, Kyle Duvall.

“Taylor’s best qualities on the court are her ability to score inside as a post or come outside and knock down a shot,” Duvall wrote in his nomination. “Her leadership qualities and work ethic make her a great all-around basketball player. Last season as a junior, Taylor was a threat offensively and in the rebounding game. Taylor was a player at the end of the game the team relied on to score a basket or get a defensive stop.

“As a senior and one of our leaders, [I have asked] Taylor to do some great things this year on and off the basketball floor. On the floor, we are relying on Taylor to be a major factor in our rebounding and scoring categories.”

Usery has been asked to score, and she’s done just that. She is averaging 13.9 points per game, along with 4.2 rebounds and 2.9 steals. She dropped 33 points against Danville, and she is shooting 71 percent from the free throw line. Her solid play has helped lead Sacred Heart to a 20-9 record and some big time wins for the program. Sacred Heart beat Wonderview last week, 50-48, to end a tough streak against the Lady Daredevils.

“I think beating Wonderview has been the defining moment of our season because it has been about four or five years since we have beaten them, and it was definitely a huge boost in our confidence,” Usery said. “We were down 15 or so in the fourth quarter, and we fought hard and worked together as a team and made a comeback to win by two points.”

Usery has been drawn to basketball “ever since I could pick up a ball.”

“I wanted to play every sport — even football,” Usery said. “Basketball was just one of them. I loved sports — the friends, the atmosphere, the suspense. I’m really going to miss it after this year.”

The game she loves has come with its fair share of hard feelings.

“I tend to get hurt a lot,” Usery said. “I have really weak ankles, so even the slightest tweak affects them. Also, I’ve learned to ignore my mom yelling at me from the stands, but I guess that’s just what moms do!”

She’s learned to appreciate her mom — even the times that she’s yelling in the stands. She understands that those moments are precious.

“In 2006, my mom was diagnosed with cancer,” Usery said. “That was probably the hardest and scariest moment of my life. I’m so thankful to God that she made it through and is happy and healthy today.”

After basketball, Usery will pick up with her final season of softball for Sacred Heart. Off the court and field, she is involved in Key Club (vice president) and Beta Club (secretary). She volunteers in community trash pickup and puts flags in front of the hospital on special occasions.

When she has some downtime, you can find her pursuing her passions.

“I love to write,” Usery said. “That’s one of the things that I’m always doing. I love reading and painting, too. Aside from all of that, I play guitar and a little bass.”

Usery and the Sacred Heart Lady Rebels return to action at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Shirley.