SHADY SPRING, W.Va. (WVVA) - The Tigers had not been to the state tournament since 1994.
But this year, that was going to change.
"Absolutely," answered head coach Ronnie Olson. "There wasn't a question in my mind that this group was going to go to Charleston or make it happen."
"Our goal was obviously to make it to states, but I was like, I think we have different goals for this team," senior Luke LeRose added. "I think we can win it."
The team tested itself right away, squaring off against Fairmont Senior, Capital and George Washington in the month of December. They won all three games on the road or neutral court.
And they just kept on winning.
"I think going into [that stretch] we were hoping to come out around 9-2, 10-1 or something like that," senior Tommy Williams said. "But I don't think any of us really expected 11-0."
"I think it was a little surprising, but I knew we had it," freshman Braden Chapman said. "We all knew we had it and we could go a long way with it."
Olson realized just how good this team could be when they stormed into the Beckley Raleigh County Convention Center to pick up the school's first win over rival Woodrow Wilson.
For the players, their light bulb moment came on January 17 -- after a gritty 73-70 victory against Bluefield.
"The way we beat them -- with that packed crowd," Chapman remembered. "It was amazing."
"After beating them I felt like we had gotten over the hump," Williams admitted. "We struggled beating them the last four years. After finally beating them, that's when we were at our peak."
The Tigers won their next eight games by an average of 33.6 points per contest. Soon, they grabbed the state's top ranking in Class AA for the very first time -- ever.
With a record of 18-0, they traveled down to the Brushfork Armory on February 17.
"It was close the whole game, I think we had a ten-point lead and we just made stupid mistakes and stupid turnovers at the end," LeRose recalled.
"[Bluefield's] gonna make shots and rebound and steal the ball and all that stuff and we just didn't match that," Williams added.
Following the first loss of the season, Olson's message to the team was clear.
"Alright guys we're not undefeated," he said. "So, it's time to move on and now our only goal is Charleston."
The Tigers swept their final three regular season opponents, and then River View in the Sectional semifinals.
It set up another showdown with the Beavers for a sectional championship.
Despite being tied at half, the suffered another loss -- its second in the last six games.
"The third quarter -- we only scored six points the whole quarter and they scored almost 20," Chapman said. "That just put us too far behind."
The team had now also lost home-court advantage in the regional round. But, not their confidence.
"I think we knew we could have won those games and I think we knew that we were going to come back and bounce back from those losses and give it our all to win," LeRose said confidently.
But the co-regional at Westside -- another shot at Bluefield in Charleston -- none of it came to pass.
"It's just a day that will always haunt you," Olson shook his head. "I compare it to -- I lost a state championship when I was a senior and it took me like two weeks to get out of bed."
"It's a very sad and disappointing feeling," Williams admitted. "It's something I'll always remember."
But, it's not the only thing Williams will remember. He will also remember this group -- this family.
And make no mistake about it, this year's team was a family.
"I think this team was probably the most close -- or closest to a family I've ever had," Williams said.
"I mean, we fight sometimes, but we always get through it," Chapman said. "And going through battles, a lot of battles with this group."
"We all trusted each other, we all depended on each other, and we were close," Olson echoed. "No matter what happened -- we're always there for each other -- negative, positive, good and bad. That's what a family is to me and I think that's what summed it up best for this group."