Its season has been far from perfect, but the South Cougars' ninth-grade squad still believes it can turn a 3-10 season into a success.
That belief is largely based on the promise that the upcoming Warhawk Invitational provides.
"It's kind of like the NCAA tournament for junior high," South coach Scott Petry said. "We've always tried to stress that that's when we want to peak. You can go through a season and not win a game and come in and do really well in the Warhawk and feel pretty good about your season."
Despite their losses, Cougar players believe they are heading in the right direction as the regular season comes to a close.
Forward Taylor Gentry noticed the team's chemistry was shaping up nicely at the right time.
"It started off pretty slow, but right now it's getting a lot better and we're finally starting to do stuff as a team."
"Chemistry is a big part of it," Petry added. "They have to be able to play together, and they have to understand what another person is doing out there on the floor, especially with the offense that we're running."
That offense involves a lot of spacing and cutting. Petry thinks the Cougars can maximize their talents in that kind of system because they do not have a lot of size on their roster. "We've got a lot of guards that on any given night can step up and lead the team," the coach said.
The usual suspects in the South backcourt include Marcus Ray, Seth Dirks-Ham and point guard Michael McCabe. All three are capable of scoring in double figures when the Cougars step on the court.
"We've got some savvy little guards," Petry said. "They're not big, but they know how to play the game of basketball. They handle the ball pretty well, and they can all shoot it."
McCabe has sensed the team was getting better, even in losses such as its recent 62-56 setback against Central.
"I think it helps us because we got some experience playing in a close game," Petry added.
The Cougars' floor general, McCabe, looked forward to the postseason.
"Our main goal is to try and do well in the Warhawk," McCabe said. "It's important because it gives us a chance to show that we can compete with all the other teams around here."
"It means everything to the team," Gentry said of the annual invitational. "What we're doing right now is not really as important - like wins and losses. When it comes down to it the only time that matters is in the Warhawk."
Petry knows his team still has a lot of work to do, and they will be preparing for the rigors of the Warhawk Invitational in the final week of practice.
"We'll be trying to perfect a lot of the things I've been trying to get them to do in practice and adding a few other wrinkles as we go through.
"We're still a work in progress," Petry said, "and it takes time and we want to be playing our best basketball at the end of the season."
The Cougars have confidence in their finished product and are looking forward to showing it off in the postseason.
"It means bragging rights," Gentry said of the upcoming tourney. "And I'm looking forward to it personally because you just look back at all the hard work you've done over the season and you just really hope it will show in the Warhawk."
The coach knows his team has put in the work, and he thinks the South Cougars have a chance to be successful.
The Warhawk Invitational will provide them with a final opportunity to grab some of the wins that have eluded them up to this point.
"Anything can happen in basketball," Petry said. "We're going to go in, and we're going to give it our best shot."