She began yelling, and they chanted along – a scene reminiscent of an NFL football pre-game ritual.
Their chants echoed through the gymnasium and drowned out the sound of the opposing team's introductions, but they didn't care. They were together as one, with one goal in mind.
On Feb. 27, the Lake Mary Rams achieved that goal, and to a player they’ll tell you that it took every one of them to do it.
They were more than just a team. They were a sisterhood.
"It's no different than being sisters, because we're like a family," senior point guard DJ Irving said. "I think we left a pretty big legacy here at Lake Mary High School to people who thought we couldn't do it. To people that said 'They depend on Morgan too much,' I think we stepped up and left a huge legacy here at Lake Mary High School."
The pre-game huddle that became their signature was a spur-of-the-moment thing, they said.
Before the first game of the season, Morgan Jones, the team's tallest player at 6-1 stepped to the middle and all the girls locked arms around her as she pumped them up for the game.
But the ritual didn't last long with Jones in the middle.
"She was too tall to do it," said 5-4 point guard Genevieve Cintron. "So one game, we didn't know what we were going to do and I just went for it, went in there and it just stuck. It was kind of our luck before each game."
The players said that was goes on inside the huddle is a lot of team-only stuff, some rap lyrics, the types of things sisters do.
"Different things we say in the locker room before, whatever music we're listening to, whatever comes to mind and whatever is in the moment," junior Sarah Taylor said.
But they were all motivated by it.
"It means a lot," Jones said. "You have Genevieve, she's the one who is always laughing, but she's not the one to be hyped like that. For her to go in there and do it, it gets everyone hyped. It gets us pumped because she has a lot of energy."
The pre-game huddle was just one of many things that built the bond of the 2010 Lake Mary girls basketball team. The Rams finished the 2009 season one win short of a state title, but there was admittedly some tension, and the team was restructured.
"Last year it was like a team of individuals," Rick Weyers said of his first year as coach. "Who was the leader? It was horses pulling the wagon in eight different directions. It was miserable, and I take the blame."
After the season, Shakeyia Colyer and Jen Knurek graduated and, as a junior, Jones became the leader. The Rams welcomed transfers Cintron, Peggy Smith and Shelbi Lindsey with open arms and brought up seven players from the JV squad to round out the team this season.
"What probably made us really close was that we were always together," said Cintron, who transferred from Bishop Moore but did not play with the varsity team. "A lot of people on the team have known each other for a long time and played AAU together. Even though we had a bunch of transfers and everything, everyone just kind of mixed well. We care about each other so much that it made us closer. We didn't let anything get to us and continued to stay together."
Smith and Lindsey played AAU basketball with Jones and Irving, so sliding them into the mix happened with relative ease.
"Being with this team is a great feeling," said Lindsey, who transferred from Lake Brantley. "They're all supportive. They pick you up when you're down. They never let your head hang down low."
After taking the only seven players he had with him to the championship game in 2009 Weyers this season finally had a complete team of 15. It made practices more complete and game days more fun.
"We have better practices with all these kids," he said. "It was a collective effort. To see all those girls celebrate and to have a big family, that's what we've been, a big family. That can be a good or a bad thing, but this year it's been a blessing and a wonderful experience."
Though Weyers changed some things about the way he ran the team in his second year, he didn't do anything to force the team to bond. That all happened naturally.
"This team is really the best team I've ever played on. For me, being a transfer from Seminole, I had a good team there, but this team, I've never had any problems," junior Peggy Smith said. "We have a great bond because we've all been through so much together this year. Even off the court, even when we're not at school, we go to each other's houses and eat and sleep over. We've just bonded with each other and had such a good time, that's why we have so much fun."
Their bond off the court showed on it. The Rams blasted off on a nine-game winning streak to start the season. When that streak was snapped in a 66-56 loss at Lake Howell on Dec. 10, they pushed each other to be better and never lost again.
"When we lost that game it definitely taught us a lot and brought us to a realization that we could lose to anyone. It's great that [Lake Howell] won first and we peaked at the end," Jones said. "It definitely brought us all together. Everybody has had the same goal all year, to win state and get as far as we can. We took game by game literally. We didn't look past any game and I think that's what really got us there."
Lake Mary went on to win 23 straight games, including two revenge victories over Lake Howell and culminating in the state championship, a 49-40 victory over Miami's Lourdes Academy.
"Our personalities just bonded and meshed well. It worked out," junior Savannah Fahed said. "This state title means everything. Every day you can feel it, that moment, it felt like we were on top of the world."
"This is the second one I've won," said Cintron, who was a member of Bishop Moore's state championship team as a freshman. "The first year, honestly, it doesn't mean anything to me. I didn’t even step on the court. This one means so much in that I helped my team the best way I could to win this and we got to do this together. It's probably one of the best feelings in the world.
The team's place in Lake Mary's record book is firm, as is their place in each other's hearts.
"It's something that I will always remember," Taylor said. "Not a lot of teams get to come to this point. You can win AAU State Championships, you can win YBO [Youth Basketball Organization] Nationals, but nothing compares to a high school state championship."
The Rams will have one more chance to play together as a team before seniors DJ Irving, Danielle White and Shelbi Lindsey depart for college. They’ll play in the ESPN RISE National High School Invitational on April 2-3 in Baltimore.
If they can win two more games, the Rams will be able to extend their winning streak to 25 and add a de facto national championship to their mantelpiece. But for the players, it's about more than winning and losing; the bond they've built will last a lifetime.
"I look back and I wish I could go back and start over again," Irving said. "It's so unreal. We're Lake Mary High School, a small town, girls just playing basketball, and we're top dogs."