Maybe the South Side High School girls basketball program is just getting started.
Maybe the Archers will become perennial state contenders under coach Juanita Goodwell, establishing a standard for excellence that sets them apart from the rest of the Class 4A pack in northeastern Indiana.
Yet no matter where the Archers go in coming years, there's only one first time.
This is the history moment, where seniors such as Ariana Simmons, Lynnia Noel and De'Joyah Johnson get bragging rights that no group of players before or after them will have.
“To be the first South team to make it to state is amazing,” Noel said. “A lot of teams before us have tried but didn't make it. It seems like we're setting a new standard for South Side basketball.”
They've set it already. South's girls program has never scaled these heights and now the previously impossible goal – a state title – is there for the taking.
It won't be easy. South (24-3) will play Bedford North Lawrence (27-0) at 8:15 p.m. Saturday at the Hulman Center in Terre Haute. The teams met earlier this season and South lost by 24 points.
But anyone who thinks South is destined for defeat because of that first loss hasn't seen the resilience of this team. The Archers were on the verge of being knocked out three times in this postseason before refusing to buckle – a one-point win over Homestead in the sectional final, an overtime win over Westfield in the regional semifinal and three-point win over Warsaw (at Warsaw) in the semistate.
“Ariana and Lynnia and De committed to make this happen, and it's been that way since Day One this season,” Goodwell said. “The way they committed to do all they could to get to this point, not only for themselves but for the whole school at South Side, has been just incredible.”
Fort Wayne schools Canterbury, Bishop Luers and Concordia Lutheran have become accustomed to reaching the state finals, and to winning championships. Canterbury, in fact, will be going for its fifth title in six seasons in the first game Saturday. Is every trip to state special? No doubt. But those schools and their fans are a bit spoiled.
It's different at South Side. The Archers haven't had a team win a state title since the girls track team took its fourth title in 1989. Boys track and field won in 1968. Boys basketball won in 1938 and 1958.
This is new territory, and the school has reacted as such.
“It's been crazy,” Noel said. “People have pictures up all around the school. Teachers are congratulating us. Students are running around (saying) 'I got my ticket! I got my ticket!' It's a great experience to have so much support.”
Simmons, who will play at IPFW next season, has been the offensive leader, averaging 14.1 points per game. But she emphasizes that the road to the top has been one of togetherness, unselfishness and a total team concept.
South is not a particularly high scoring team. Johnson averages 10 points per game, junior Brittni Clopton 9.7 and Noel 6.2. Their win over Warsaw was a defensive battle, with the Archers prevailing 47-44.
The Archers are not worried about numbers.
“We worked as a team, and that's the big thing,” Simmons said. “We're family. No matter what the situation, we're together. Win or lose, we're there for each other.”
“We play as one,” Johnson said. “We play for each other. We don't play for you to get your points or nothing like that. We play as one and we work hard in practice and we try to continue to get better.”
There might not be a more battled-tested team among the eight teams in the four classes Saturday. South played only five home games this season due to a number of factors, but the result was road worthiness rather than road weariness.
They played through times when the crowds were against them, when it seemed like they couldn't get a call from the officials and when it seemed like everyone expected them to lose. To only lose three games in the face of daunting odds was impressive indeed.
Goodwell estimated Warsaw fans accounted for more than half the crowd in attendance at last week's semistate. It felt like another road game. The Archers might feel that again this Saturday.
“My response to them Saturday night was, 'You're forever etched in history,' ” Goodwell said. “ 'Your names will always be the first team to ever get to state for South Side basketball.' That's the best feeling in the world.”
There's one more feeling left. South has its work cut out for it against Bedford North Lawrence. Win or lose, they'll still go where no South girls team has gone before. And maybe it's just the start for this program.