Northview Knights Head Coach Mitch Lancaster looked at his team, then to the wall behind him. The team, tired from an afternoon of practice Tuesday, listened attentively as he gave his final talk of the day.
"Listen," the coach said, slightly smiling as he spoke, "we want to see r-e-g-i-o-n-a-l up there. Let's keep working hard and do it!"
His smile grew wider as he gave the team their mantra, the words they broke for the day to: "Beat the Bulldogs!"
For Lancaster, this season has marked a success the Knights haven't seen in 16 years.
The team walked away with a sectional championship Saturday night, leaving with an ecstatic crowd behind them. But they aren't done. Not quite yet.
"We're gratified but not satisfied," Senior Logan Whitman said. "It's gratifying that we won the sectional, but we don't want to stop there."
Seniors on the team are quite the opposite of the stereotypical high school athletes. Instead of egotistical, mean-spirited bullies, the seven classmates come off as modest, determined young men who care as much about the community as it does about them.
Dan Hoover, another Knights senior, said that Clay County has given them more than enough support and they appreciate every bit of it.
"It's really great," he said. "They never let us down. They follow us where we go, they root for us... it really keeps us going."
Whitman and Hoover, along with Josh Timm, Tyler Akers, Zach Keyes, Craig Greenwood, and Matt Brand, refuse to take any credit for themselves. When asked as a group what the deciding factor of their win was, they answered unanimously, saying "teamwork".
"Teamwork and dedication," Timm added. "And with seven seniors, we have a lot of maturity."
Another common agreement between the group is that the sectional win is, so far, their best memory of high school basketball. They were playing ball together before that, however -- in fact, the seven have been running the court together since the seventh grade.
"That helped us too, no doubt," Whitman said.
To prepare for their regional game Saturday, the Knights as a whole have been practicing very, very hard. Two and 1/2 hours a day hard, to be exact. Lancaster, standing on the sidelines during yesterday's practice, barked orders to his team as they played a game of silver-versus-black.
"Trap! Trap! Trap," he commanded. "Where's my post? Where's the post?"
Win or lose, the Knights are going to play hard come Saturday. When asked if they were prepared to come home heroes if they won the game, they responded with a chorus of affirmatives. If they don't make the win, however, they know they have their fans to fall back on.
"I think we'll still get respect if that happens," Whitman said. "Respect from our friends, family, and community."
Lancaster, too, will be happy with his seniors regardless of the outcome.
"They're such a cohesive group," he said. "The community's really gravitated to these guys because they're winners.... they're great guys. They always find time to help out with the elementary. They're just good guys. Combine that with some great basketball, and people really gravitate."
Lancaster is just as pleased with the outpour of support from the community.
"Our community support is the best in the state," he said. "I'm not saying that loosely, not at all. I can say it honestly because it really is."
The Knights play at 12:05 p.m. Saturday against New Albany at Seymour. The time is approximate due to the 10:30 a.m. first game.