HINTON, W.Va. (WVVA) - The winning tradition of the Lady Bobcats speaks for itself.
Before this season, the program had reached the state tournament in six of the past nine seasons -- and that only includes the last of five-straight state titles from 2007 to 2011.
"Just to be a part of a program that great and a program that successful, it makes me feel like hopefully one day I can get a championship," junior Taylor Isaac said.
But, that tradition also comes with expectations.
"A lot of expectations, definitely," junior Gavin Pivont admitted. "I think the hardest part sometimes is coming over it yourself. What do I need to do to be the best for my team -- to make my team better."
This year's Summers County team was focused on just that -- improvement -- especially after a first round state tournament exit in 2019.
"I just remember, and I'm sure the whole team remembers how it felt going home after the first game last year, and we really did not want to experience that again," junior Riley Richmond said.
"Sometimes losing is hard, but you learn the most from failing," Isaac said.
"We actually set our goals for the following season right there in the locker room after the loss to Parkersburg Catholic," head coach Chad Meador shared. "Our goal was, once again, to not only get to the state tournament, but to win one. We thought we had that caliber of team."
And the Lady Bobcats proved it.
They finished the regular season with a record of 16-6, with five of those losses coming against schools in the Class AA and Class AAA ranks.
"You have to play great competition," Meador said plainly. "You have to play teams that are a little bit better than you. You have to be battled-tested coming down the stretch."
"We know that we're playing those games and going against those tough opponents because we know it's going to prepare us for what really matters -- and that's the state tournament," Pivont said.
The battle-tested Bobcats navigated the sectional playoffs, defeating Montcalm and Greenbrier West. Then, they toughed out a 47-43 overtime victory against Charleston Catholic in the Region co-final to punch their ticket to Charleston.
Their first round opponent was none other than Pocahontas County -- the only Class A team to beat them this season.
"Honestly, I try not to remember it," Pivont laughed. "It wasn't pretty."
"We were definitely not at our best," Richmond said. "We had communication issues -- it was not our best game."
But, it taught the squad a valuable lesson.
"No matter what, we have to leave it all on the floor because it can go either way," Isaac stated. "Anybody can lose, anybody can win. So, I think it gave us a realization -- we need to bring our 'A' game to every game we play."
They were ready to do just that in the 9 p.m. slot on Thursday night.
That's when Meador got the call -- just minutes before arriving in the state capital.
"I'm walking through the hotel and I see 17 players, support staff, parents and coaches looking at me wanting to know what I know," Meador remembered. "Some with tears in their eyes, some eagerly listening. Then I had to tell them the news."
"I was just so locked into the game, I didn't want to believe it," Isaac said.
"It was just like -- a feeling that you didn't think it could happen. Then all of the sudden, it did," Pivont echoed.
The season ended in an instant. It hurt, because everyone knew this year's group was special.
"They worked their tail off," Meador said. "They worked hard, not only in games, but they practiced hard."
"They didn't care who was in the spotlight, because they were there to win, they were there to play and they gave it their all no matter what," Isaac said.
The sadness of this lost season still lingers. But, the Lady Bobcats can't help but be excited about the possibilities of next year.
"Having six seniors on a team with experience and just really good communication together -- it always feels good to have that," Richmond said.
"I think we have a good chance of meeting the goal that we wanted to meet this year … for next year," Pivont concluded.