If you looked into the stands of the rowdy, packed Fairview High School crowd, you might've seen shirts that have on them the phrase, "Locked In."
Sure, that's coach speak in some regards, a general team slogan to rally a postseason behind, but, in this context, it's the foundation on which the Yellowjackets boys basketball team has built a roaring comeback after a devastating loss.
It's the mentality Fairview took to win its third-straight 11-AA district title in a 54-45 win over Hickman Co. Saturday night at home.
So what made Fairview wish to be so "Locked In?"
Midway through Fairview's 2019-20 season, senior leader Locke Hord went down with a year-ending injury that sent a jolt through a team still trying to find its identity after losing talented starters in its 2018-19 class.
They chose to honor Hord with a message to be "Locked In" for the playoffs.
"Every year, we try to do a postseason shirt, and with [Hord] going down his senior year...he was averaging a double-double, I mean, he was one of the best players in the district," Fairview head coach Trey McCoy said of the "Locked In" moniker.
"So with him going down, it looked like our season was down the tubes, but these guys believed. So we come up with our district shirt this year, we've been a good defensive team all year. It just made sense."
The bad news was losing a leader and key contributor.
The good news, of course, is new hardware and pop guns of confetti from the Fairview student section on the Yellowjacket hardwood.
The team, a four seed, withstood a roller coaster of an 11-AA finals game with two-seed Hickman Co. to add only the school's sixth-ever district title in boys basketball.
This win is on the heels of the team's Friday semifinals upset over top-ranked Creek Wood. Fairview entered the tourney as a four seed.
The other district victories? 1960, 1961, 1991, 2018, 2019. Quite a gap, and quite an accomplishment.
"Super proud," McCoy said of what the three-peat means. "The first [district title] was not expected, second one was and this one, we fought like crazy to get, coming in as a four seed and almost going .500 in the district. This one's special."
The game mimicked Fairview's season. The team would occasionally get hot and hit a few shots and get a turnover (and the near-capacity crowd) going, but then Hickman Co. would countermove. It would be like this to half, with Fairview down 29-26.
The Yellowjackets would respond after half by hitting a few shots from the perimeter and getting some much-needed momentum, but the Bulldogs weren't about to let up. Hickman Co. got its own momentum boost and closed the third ahead 41-39.
Fairview regained the lead and would go on a substantial run in the fourth. It was capped by a big Kennedy Pendergrass three that effectively earned Fairview its last-needed momentum push to reach the finish line and its third-straight title.
"He is young, he's a sophomore," McCoy said of Pendergrass. "We've been telling him, 'You're a shooter, you're a shooter, you're a shooter.' And he said that tonight when he had the little turnover where he tried to overdo it. And then he said, 'I'm a shooter,' 'I'm a shooter,' 'I'm a shooter.' I said, 'Yes sir, you're a shooter'
"Not shocked at all; he's going to be a good player in the coming years."
The sophomore said it was a simple instinct that led him to the game-altering shot.
"I was wide open," he said. "I knew I needed to do something, and I hit it."
Being young doesn't always equal time on the court, but Pendergrass says he wanted to make the most of his early time with Fairview.
"I just love it. I worked for it," Pendergrass said. "I did everything I could this year just to get minutes and it ended up with me starting."
Pendergrass led the Yellowjackets in scoring with 17, while reliable senior starter Bill Eads, a Home Page WillCo 2019-20 Boys Basketball Player of the Year finalist, had 12.
Isaiah Puckett led Hickman Co. with 15.
"It feels great, this one especially this week, because we played so together, " Eads said of the victory.
"All the adversity makes it that much better just because we were doubted from the beginning. So coming out on top just means the world."
Eads has been a starter on all three of the district title teams.
"That helped me a lot, just to get used to how high school was played, the faster pace," he said of starting as a sophomore.
"I'm just blessed," Eads says to playing such a big part in his school's history. "I'm happy to be part of this great family. That's all I can say."
The senior's importance to the Yellowjackets is not lost on his coach.
"I was telling my assistant coach, we have one kid who played a lot last year, five [junior varsity] kids and a freshman," McCoy remembered. "And he's the kid that played a lot, and it shows. He's a great player. He's put up with a lot this year, a lot physicality, kids, teams holding him, pushing him, shoving him. And he took it in stride and [has] done what we need him to do."
Since his hiring in 2017, McCoy has won the district each winter and has taken the team to the region and sub-state levels.
He is a Fairview graduate himself, having been on the 1996 Yellowjackets team that upset a formidable Waverly team in the district tournament that year and came up short against a familiar Fairview foe, Stewart Co.
"It's very similar to tonight," McCoy said. "I reflected on that with [the players]. Back then, we were the third or fourth seed, Waverly was undefeated. We beat them...and then we play the championship game against a team we've beat twice and laid an egg and lost.
"So I told them I was able to go back to that moment and tell them, you beat a great team [Creek Wood] last night, but you didn't win nothing last night. You've got to play tonight to win and beat another great team. So they took it to heart. They played their guts out."
To McCoy, the team's entire year shows the team's resilience.
"That's what basketball's about, it's all about peaking at the right time," he said. "We graduated a lot, then we lost one of our best players to a midseason injury, then Bill's been sick for about the last 30-45 days. So it's been up and down. So to win this one, to be good right now, it's a testament to them and all the work they've put in.
"It would've been easy for this team to fold and give up."
From here on out, the Yellowjackets (18-11, 8-6) will head into the Region 6-AA tournament as a top seed next weekend, opponent TBD. Last year's ferocious Fairview squad suffered a shock defeat at home to Murfreesboro Central in the first round of region play.
They should know their opponent when the 12-AA district tournament wraps up this Tuesday at Marshall Co.
McCoy said he knows that the Yellowjackets can only enjoy this win for so long, but expressed confidence in his 2019-20 team going ahead.
"I like where we're sitting," he said. "I think we've got a chance to go further. Last year's team was really good. I had a really good group last year. This team has a chance to go further, which is just amazing. It's amazing."