Karly Weathers helps Loretto girls get back to TSSAA basketball semifinals. This time they can play

George Robinson
Nashville Tennessean

MURFREESBORO — Karly Weathers isn't about to squander this opportunity.

Last year's cancellation of the Class A state tournament semifinal between her Loretto team and Gibson County is still fresh in her mind. The Lady Mustangs also had two COVID-19 shutdowns this season.

So when Wednesday's state quarterfinal against Cloudland got underway, the Class A Miss Basketball finalist wasn't leaving anything to chance.

"There were definitely doubts and times where I was like, 'Are we ever going to get the opportunity to go through a smooth season?' " Weathers said after leading Loretto with 21 points in a 63-31 blowout win over Cloudland at Murphy Center. "We'd start, stop, start and then stop again. It's been nice here at the end to keep pushing through."

Weathers had 12 points at the end of the first quarter with Loretto up 22-7. By halftime she had 15. The clock ran continuously with the Lady Mustangs (19-7) up 30 while Weathers sat for the majority of the final period.

Loretto is back in the semifinals where it will face Clay County at 10 a.m. Friday, and the 6-foot junior has had laser-like focus. Her offensive skill was on display Wednesday, burying a deep 3-pointer early, knocking down a step-back 3-pointer and muscling through three defenders for a layup.

Loretto's guard Karly Weathers (22) goes up for a shot as Cloudland's guard Gracie Freeman (23) guards her during the TSSAA girls basketball state tournament at Middle Tennessee State University on Wednesday, March 10, 2021.

"My mom, ever since my eighth-grade year, has been telling me you have to score at three different levels," Weathers said. "You have to be able to hit the jump shot, the 3-ball and you have to take the ball to the rim."

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Weathers is the daughter of former Belmont great Kelli Weathers, who is an assistant for the Lady Mustangs. Karly's progression this season has been rapid as defenses load up to stop her. Not much has worked as she averages 22.1 points.

"Karly is going to outwork anybody, and she's also going to be the most critical of herself," Loretto coach Ashley Rutledge said. "She can have a 27-point game and she's going to find every little thing she did wrong. She's going to study it, she's going to get into the gym and work on it."

The past year has taught Karly to be patient. While she's received offers from schools like Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Georgia Tech, Indiana, Belmont and Middle Tennessee State, the pandemic has limited opportunities for those offers to increase.

"With recruiting, since COVID hit, (the NCAA) is giving (seniors) another year of eligibility," Weathers said. "You talk numbers on a basketball team, that takes away scholarships. If a school is looking for two guards and two posts, now they may be looking for one guard and one post and one guard has already committed. It becomes a business for sure when you're talking recruiting."

Karly — whose dad, David, was a major league pitcher and brother Ryan pitches for the San Diego Padres — hasn't allowed recruiting difficulties to distract her. The Lady Mustangs' goal is still within reach.

Loretto Karly Weathers (22) shoots over Summertown’s Hailey Jones (23) during their game at Summertown High School Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021 in Summertown, Tenn.

"The whole recruiting thing, I worry more about it during the summer time," she said. "That's when all the college coaches are out to watch. Through the course of the season, I'm worried about where's this team going to go or how I'm going to help our team achieve a state championship."

Reach sports writer George Robinson at georgerobinson@theleafchronicle.com or (931) 245-0747 and on Twitter @Cville_Sports.