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TWIN GOALS: Rainwater achieves dream by committing to Air Force

Mar. 14—Kori Rainwater always wanted to do two things when she was younger: play sports at the college level and join the military.

Originally, the Tahlequah Lady Tiger didn't think she would be able to do both, but as her basketball career progressed, a dual route opened up.

Rainwater's strong four-year turn on the court earned her a scholarship with the Air Force Academy to continue her career and eventually join the military.

"I was really excited because I feel like some people don't know they can do it, or don't think they are capable of doing it," Rainwater said. "I'm just excited for the challenge to play sports, go to a school that is good academically, and eventually join the Air Force."

While Rainwater decided on the Air Force, she had plenty of other schools looking to add her to their rosters.

"I always wanted to be in the military when I was little, but I didn't think I could do both sports and the military. But then I realized I could do both, and it was a big push to be able to do both at the same time," Rainwater said.

Her aspirations to join the military go back to her father, who was also in the armed forces. Since she always looked up to her father, she quickly decided she wanted to follow in his footsteps.

"When I was younger my dad was in the Army and he is one of my biggest heroes," Rainwater said. "But I didn't really want to go the Army route, so I started to look into the Air Force. I am just proud of being able to follow in his footsteps, and it's a lot of motivation."

On the court, Rainwater spent four seasons as a strong contributor for the Lady Tigers. Over the past two seasons, she has been a driving force on both defense and offense in the paint.

After winning the Metro Lakes Conference Player of the Year her junior season, Rainwater continued to make strides as a senior. She averaged 15.7 points per game this season to nearly match her 15.8 ppg average from last season. Rainwater shot 57.7% from the field, a slight uptick from last season's 51% field goal shooting. She also led the Lady Tigers with 214 rebounds this season (7.9 a game).

"She is the backbone of our team and has been for four years; it will be difficult to replace her," THS head coach David Qualls said. "She did a good job on the glass for us. She was the anchor of our defense in the paint, and she was a force inside with a great post move. Her free-throw percentage got better every year. She had a huge impact on our team, but the biggest impact was how she interacted and competed with her teammates on the day-to-day."

Back in January against East Central, Rainwater added her name to the record books. In the second quarter, she hit a mid-range jumper to etch her name in the 1,000-point club. By the time the season was over, Rainwater was officially the career leader in rebounds and blocks for the Lady Tigers.

Overall, Rainwater ended her career with 1,208 points, 786 rebounds and 187 blocks.

"She for sure left her mark; she had a great career here," Qualls said. "It is amazing to see how far she's come from her freshman year to her senior year. Her game has improved so much, her 3-pointer, her 15-foot jumper, her ball handling, and just how comfortable she became as a leader. It was great to watch."

While Rainwater had plenty of accomplishments over her career, the one of which she's most proud was being on the court as much as possible.

"I think my proudest accomplishment was being able to play all four years healthy," Rainwater said. "I was hurt for a couple of games, but for the most part, I was really available. I think my biggest accomplishment is just being able to complete my high school career and be able to get another four or five years out of it."

For Qualls, Rainwater marks the eighth player he's coached to move on to the college level.

Rainwater is also the second Lady Tiger to officially sign after Jaydyn Buttery inked with Northeastern State earlier this season.

"I was proud of her; it was a great opportunity for her. It is great academically and it will prepare her for life. To go to the military and go away from home is challenging," Qualls said.

Rainwater will finish her senior year on the track-and-field pitch. While she is accomplished on the basketball court, she also made the State Finals in the discus throw.

After she graduates, she will be off to the challenge of the Air Force Academy to start her freshman season.

"I am expecting it to be really challenging, but I am someone who is up to the challenge. I am just excited to see where it takes me," Rainwater said.

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