So how does a team stay motivated coming off a season in which they won a state championship?
"I tell them they had nothing to do with it," St. Anthony's coach Ken Parham said.
That may sound a little harsh, but it's somewhat true. And it's an effective motivational technique.
"We want to show that we are capable," Taylor Goode said after St. Anthony's beat Mary Louis Academy, 54-48, in the CHSAA state quarterfinals at St. Francis Prep in Queens Tuesday night. "Even though we didn't play much last year, this is our opportunity."
The Friars graduated five key seniors from its state title team. In fact, those five players accounted for all but one point in the state final. Those who spent most of that game sitting on the bench are now the ones defending the title. And Tuesday night, they took another step toward doing just that.
Maia Moffitt converted a putback to give St. Anthony's a 48-46 lead with 2:40 left. Etalyia Vogt then nailed a step-back three with the shot clock winding down to increase the lead to five. Goode hit a finger-roll layup to seal the win with 53 seconds left.
"Since we won last year, we know what to expect," Jayla Jones-Pack said. "Our coach reminds us that we're young and we're hungry. We're capable of winning if we play hard, play smart and play together. We can beat anyone."
Vogt scored 11 of her 20 points in the first quarter, and hit a pull-up jumper at the first-half buzzer to pull St. Anthony's within 30-29.
"There's a lot of pressure on us, especially since we're not seniors," Vogt said of a roster filled with sophomores and juniors. "But we're all tough players and we want to win and prove people wrong."
Goode had 10 points, five rebounds and nine steals and Allyson Murphy added eight points for St. Anthony's (19-6), which plays host Christ the King in the semifinals at 7 p.m. Friday.
"Everyone on the team has their own personal talent and if we all play together, we'll be ready for states," Goode said. "We want a banner."
This time, they'd have a lot to do with it.