Sweetwater duo in Sweet 16 during first year with ETBU
MARSHALL, Texas —
Former Sweetwater girls basketball coach Rusty Rainbolt has led an incredible turnaround in his first season with the East Texas Baptist women's basketball team.
The Tigers have gone from winning just three games all of last season, to winning the American Southwest Conference Tournament and advancing to the school's first-ever Sweet 16 of the NCAA Division III Tournament.
Baylie Lindsey followed Rainbolt after graduating from Sweetwater and has been in the starting line-up as a freshman at ETBU.
"[This has been] the best season I've ever played," said Lindsey via FaceTime on Monday. "This is so much fun. It's way better than any high school playoff win, but it's awesome especially since we were underdogs this whole tournament."
ETBU is 24-6 this season, including wins over #19 Whitman and UT-Dallas in the first two rounds of the D3 Tourney.
Rainbolt coached his alma mater Sweetwater for two seasons after several stints at the collegiate level, including at Southern Arkansas, HSU and McMurry. Following two wins against the Cowgirls and War Hawks in Abilene earlier this season, he told KTXS he believes the reason for the Tigers' instant success is focusing less on basketball and more on relationships.
"It really helped me get life in perspective," said Rainbolt in January about his move to high school coaching. "I got to be home a lot more and be with my wife and my family, and that was good, too. I saw I could be a good dad, a good husband and still be a pretty decent coach."
"I had some high expectations, but I don't think any of us thought, since it was the first year of us playing together, that we were going to get as far as we have," said Lindsey.
Playing under Rainbolt at Sweetwater has helped teach Lindsey to trust the process and her coach's decisions.
ETBU will face sixth-ranked University of St. Thomas on Friday in Waverly, Iowa.