PRINCETON, W.Va. (WVVA) - A trip to the state tournament -- it was about the only thing the 2019-20 PikeView girls basketball senior class had not checked off the list.
But, it's the only thing they wanted.
"It's been our goal since freshman year to make it upstate," senior Olivia Boggess said.
They realized quickly, however, that goal wasn't going to be realized easily.
"We had a really tough schedule," recalled senior Hope Craft. "The first couple months we just realized we weren't just going to be able to walk through it. We had to put in the effort just to get there."
That effort came easily, however, after head coach Karen Miller announced she would retire following her 24th season at the helm.
"We all knew it was our last year and that we had our last chance to get upstate," admitted senior Laken McKinney. "But, once we found out it was her last year, I think it gave us a little more motivation to get up there for her as well."
"We really wanted this for her and for us," added senior Makenzee Shrewsbury. "This was both of our last shots. We have no other chance to get it."
By the time playoffs rolled around in February, the Lady Panthers were playing on a different level.
"In the sectional tournament -- and the regional -- I'm telling you, they just played awesome," Miller smiled. "I think they were focused and they knew where they wanted to go."
"We just got this drive about us halfway through the season," Shrewsbury remembered. "We really wanted it -- we wanted it so, so bad."
"We knew it was either do it now, or never do it again for some of us," Craft stated.
That drive and purpose carried right into the region co-final against Wyoming East, thanks to a little extra motivation before the game.
"Reverend [Rick] Setzer gave us that message and it really set a fire in us," Shrewsbury said.
Setzer told the the story of the Triple Crown-winning horse -- Secretariat.
"After Secretariat died, they did an autopsy on him," Miller said. "They found that he had a huge heart."
"They felt that because he had a big heart -- that's how he did what he did."
The Lady Warriors had kept PikeView from reaching the state tournament each of the last two seasons.
But not this year.
The Lady Panthers held the visitors to just six baskets in the second half, winning 83-51.
"I can't even describe the feeling -- just the whole support from the school and our community," Boggess said.
"From then on we just really knew we could do something," Shrewsbury said.
It would be another six days before the team would step on the floor at the Charleston Coliseum. But, that didn't matter.
"Honestly, I don't think that excitement ever died down," Craft admitted.
"I was on Cloud 9 the whole time," added McKinney.
"We were high off the game," Shrewsbury recalled. "Just the energy and the drive we had -- it never went away."
March 11 was state quarterfinal day. Sixth-seeded PikeView tipped-off against the third-seeded Fairmont Senior Lady Polar Bears.
The contest was close the whole way, but PikeView took down the defending state champions, 59-55.
"It was just a great feeling to win upstate and win with this special team," Miller said.
"We said before the game -- we're not finished yet. When we come to play, we come to stay all week. Being told we had to leave -- it was heartbreaking," Shrewsbury said.
Nearly the entire team was in a mall together when they heard news of the postponement.
"To tell them was the hardest thing I've ever had to do," Miller said.
"I just wanted to finish it," Boggess whispered, holding back tears.
The season came to a halt with the Lady Panthers just two games shy of their wildest dreams.
"I've already told them -- I think we would have been state champions," Miller said.
"I have no doubt in my mind we would have been state champs," Boggess agreed.
The shortened season left the careers of the five PikeView seniors and their head coach unfinished. But, it can't stop this group from walking away -- proud.
"When we step out on the floor together, there's a confidence in each other, for each other," Shrewsbury said.
"It's on and off the floor -- it's not just a basketball thing -- it's a friendship thing. That makes me proud -- to be on a team that really loves each other."