"It was disheartening. It was almost cruel," said Henderson County Girls basketball head coach Jeff Haile.
"I was kind of thinking "This wasn't true", said Henderson County senior guard Sadie Wurth.
"Me personally, I was very disappointed," said Henderson County semior guard Lauren Hubbard.
It's hard to believe those words could be associated with the Henderson County girls basketball team. However, that's what the perennial power was left with after last season's trip to the Kentucky Sweet 16's was ended without a shot taken, thanks to the Coronavirus shutdown. And that last minute ending has driven the Lady Colonels to a return trip to Lexington.
"I think it is a chip on my shoulder," said Hubbard. "But also I think it is a motivation to want to keep getting to where we want to go and where we've been in the past."
"We definitely wanted to get back to where we were last year, and we have, and we still have a great opportunity," said Wurth. "So we're going to take advantage of that and see what we can do."
"This year was a little different, where we got shutdown last year," said Haile. "We really, really worked hard to stay focused so we can get back to where we want to get to, which is the state tournament, and give us a shot at trying to win a state championship."
That determination fueled a 14-and-4 regular season, then a playoff run that saw the Lady Colonels obliterate the competition by an average margin of victory of better than 32 points a contest. And it was done in Henderson County's traditional way.
"Our kids play hard," said Haile. "That's what we demand they do. They come out and play hard. We play a lot of man-to-man pressure defense. We like to press some. So, we feel like we can be in a ball game, even though we're struggling a little bit early, we feel like we're still going to get there and turn some people over and get some easy baskets. That's what we've been able to do this year . Number one thing with us is try to play good defense and put pressure on people."
"We're smart," said Wurth. "We play together. We play as a team, and that really helps a lot. We're not selfish, or anything. We all want a good team, and we have that here."
"I think our bench and the way we practice," said Hubbard. "I think we practice harder than some teams, and our bench is ready to go at any time, and that helps us a lot too."
Longtime bench boss Jeff Haile, who is taking Henderson County to their 16th Sweet 16 appearance, knows what it takes to make a long run in Lexington.
"One, you've got to have just a little bit of luck," said Haile. "Just like any other tournament play. Some shots have got to fall. You're in a different atmosphere, a different court. You haven't practice there at all. So, you've got to come out. You've got to shoot the ball well. Also, the mental part has to be there. You've got to get your rest. You've got to hydrate. You've just got to be ready to play and your scouting reports got to be right on."
There won't be much need for a scouting report in the Lady Colonels first round match-up, as they face the rival E-Gals of Apollo, a team they're well acquainted with, having beaten them 50-33 in March. However, no one expects another blowout.
"I know we've beat them in the past," said Hubbard. "I know they're not just going to lay down and let us beat them easily. And they're go-getters, so we'll have an opponent ready for us."
"Kind of like us a little bit," said Haile. "They play hard. They shoot the ball well. They have good guards, so a big challenge for us. Even though we beat them earlier in the season. They were struggling at that time. They had a couple injuries, but they're full force now and really playing well."
Now while this is far from the Lady Colonels first Sweet 16 rodeo, they have yet to lasso the gold, something they look to rectify in this year's return.
"It would mean everything," said Wurth. "I mean, it would be a dream come true. We most definitely have the talent here to do it. We've just got to play our game."
"This team right here, would be the first team to do that here at Henderson County High School," said Hubbard. "So that would be a great honor."