At North Charleston High School, the dreams of the basketball players might only be trumped by the expectations of the community.
The school has produced many champions, numerous talented players and coaches who know how to motivate a team.
The 2011-12 edition has all three ingredients needed for another memorable season.
With four outstanding seniors leading the way, the Cougars are 19-6 under first-year coach Blake Hall heading into Saturday's Class AA state playoff game at home against Andrews. The Cougars appear poised to make a run at the state championship. They reached the Lower State championship last season and can still remember the bitter taste of last year's 65-59 loss to Mullins at The Citadel's McAlister Field House.
With a cast that includes seniors Bernard Samuel, Anthony Williams, James Brown and Jamal Baldwin, the Cougars have a strong core that provides talent and serves as a role model to the younger players. The driving force is to go out winners and claim the school's first state championship since 1997.
"It seems like the senior year came so fast," said Samuel, who averages 16.5 points and four rebounds per game. "Now, my final basketball season is about over. It seems like just yesterday that we were freshmen. Winning a state championship is something we've always talked about. We don't want to feel that pain like last year. I believe we can play in -- and win -- the state championship game. We just have to stay focused."
That's one of Hall's duties. He's young, sharp and seems to be building on what already was a solid foundation. Some first-year coaches can come in and cause catastrophic ripples. But the transition has been seamless.
"The change has been OK," said Williams, who averages 16.4 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game. "Coach Hall wants the same thing we want. He wants to win, and he wants what's best for us."
Brown also has impressive numbers. He's scoring 11.4 points per game and dishes out 4.2 assists. But the most impressive number in his resume is his class rank. He checks in at No. 6 academically in the senior class.
Baldwin transferred to North Charleston a few years ago.
"I love being part of North Charleston basketball," he said. "We're a smaller school and sometimes we don't get a lot of good publicity, so it's good to be part of something positive and give back to the community."
Any new coach's job is made easier when the team wins. The Cougars enter Saturday's game with nine consecutive victories and confidence.
"They have talent," Hall said. "But the four seniors also have leadership ability. It's like having four assistant coaches on the court. They talk and the younger players listen."
Follow Phil Bowman on Twitter: @pandcphil.