LONDON, Ky. (WYMT) - The story for the South Laurel Cardinals is obvious.
"Last year it didn't end the way we wanted it to end obviously. I hate thinking about it," Senior Shooting Guard JJ Ramey said. "I think the region championship last year will motivate us more to work hard in practice and every game, cause it was a heartbreak."
"I feel like we work a lot harder, cause we don't want to feel that feeling again," added Matt Cromer, a junior shooting guard. "We just don't wanna be back, we wanna win it this year."
The Cardinals are talking about the 66-62 overtime loss to Corbin in last year's 13th region championship, a loss that Head Coach Jeff Davis says helped his team grow.
"I think it's created a little bit more maturity on this team. The chance of going to Rupp Arena - you don't get there that many times, and when you do you gotta take advantage of those, and I think that loss left a little bit of a bad taste," Davis said. "As a coach, you really didn't have to say much. You could see it in their eyes, especially after the game and how it lingered."
The loss not only motivated the Cardinals for this season, but it also brought them closer together as a team.
"I feel like we're a lot closer, all of us are close, and we're a lot stronger than we were last year," said Alex Hostettler, a junior point guard.
"We're just - we've just been through everything together," added Senior Forward Peyton Parker. "We're like brothers."
"I feel like we play defense a lot better, we play a lot faster, and we're just more like bonded together as a team, so hopefully that helps," Junior Small Forward Brett Norvell also said.
As usual, South Laurel expects to push the pace.
"We're running up and down the court really fast, faster than last year, cause our conditioning this year has been horrible," Ramey said. "So I think Davis will get us ready for that."
Now, of course, the Cardinals hope to win the 13th region, something they harped on. But, the Cardinals do not want to stop there.
"Definitely win district and region, and we get to Rupp, not to just play but to try and win every game and go far," Hostettler said.
However, like any coach, Coach Davis wants his team to focus on the now and each individual game.
"Of course they wanna get back and try to win it instead of not winning it. They wanna cut down that net, but we're just focused every single day in practice to get better," Davis said. "We're not looking at February or March, and that's the reason our schedule is as hard as it is, especially early on. We've got to take care of the here and now and build those habits early on, so when we get back there we can finish."
The South Laurel Cardinals open up the season ranked No. 1 in the boys' Alice Lloyd College Mountain Top 10.