When Jaylah Hardy steps on the basketball court the senior supplies more than what's seen on a stat sheet. Besides points, rebounds, assists and even defensive pressure, the Signal Mountain playmaking point guard brings an energy that her teammates feed off of.
The younger sister of former McCallie all-state defensive lineman Jay Hardy, all of her abilities were on display during Tuesday's 50-32 non-district home win over Baylor. Hardy closed the third quarter by converting a three-point play, after a strong drive to the basket, and finished with 12 points, six rebounds, four assists and four steals.
"Jaylah has had a really good season as far as being in control and her leadership," Signal Mountain coach Kendra Bell said. "Her strength is being able to do a little bit of everything well. She is a tough player and has a nice game. It's just nice for our seniors to be able to go out there and do their thing. We want to ride this out as far as we can go."
The Lady Eagles also made 17-of-18 free throws and senior post Olivia Koontz, a Tennessee Tech signee, finished with a game-high 16 points (including 8-of-8 free throws) and blocked three shots. Koontz now has scored more than 1,800 points in helping her team to 104 wins in five seasons.
Heading toward the postseason, the combination of Hardy — the District-6-AA tournament MVP as a freshman — and Koontz — the 6-AA tournament MVP as a sophomore — have the Lady Eagles playing at a high level. With one week remaining in the regular season, Signal Mountain — which claimed two of the past three district tournament titles — stands 13-3 overall, including six straight wins.
During that span Hardy has averaged 10 points, 4 steals per game.
"She's been all over the place for us," Bell said. "Jaylah has matured a lot and been a great leader this year. We lost two starters to injury so we're playing some really young kids, but she's done a great job of being patient with them and showing them how to be in control on the court.
"We weren't a very good team last year so the biggest difference in our turnaround has been the way Jaylah has taken over. This year has been so crazy and we're just thankful to be playing that we've kind of been living in the moment. But now we're starting to look ahead to the tournament and talking about how we want to redeem ourselves as a team so I would expect to see more determination from our seniors, and definitely Jaylah will be a big part of that."