Though the 3A East Region Champion Lady Longhorn basketball team suffered a blow that could have divided them when they were disqualified from the state tournament, the unity they still share is as obvious as the talent they displayed all season.
The team's awards banquet Tuesday night felt more like a family reunion than a public high school event.
The group of players, their families and coaches were cheerful and genuinely glad to see one another. Parents snapped photographs and girls greeted each other with hugs and laughter.
The phrase, "I love you" was spoken countless times, both by coaches and players.
"I love every single one of my teammates so much," Kayla Morgan said. "I had so much fun playing basketball this season."
Head coach Grant Coley handed out regional and team awards, at times fighting back tears, as he remembered moments throughout the season. His pride for his team was written all over his face.
"We earned it," he said of the regional champion plaque he raised up for everyone to see. "We're not giving it back."
Coley then announced the all-region award winners -- Christina Deaton and Morgan -- and the all-region honorable mention recipients -- Cydney Figueroa and Jenna Robertson.
Figueroa was named to the East region all-tournament team as the Most Valuable Player.
Deaton and Rhea Cosay were also named to the all-tournament team.
While all-tournament and regional awards were voted on by coaches, the Lady Horns also had a set of team awards, voted on by the players.
They included Cosay as team MVP, Rose Hardt and Morgan as most improved and Robertson as the "hustle player."
Marquel Waterman was given the Lady Longhorn award for displaying class and pride on and off the court.
With each award, came spirited applause from parents and players, despite Coley's request that everyone hold their applause until all the awards were handed out.
"We're really supportive of each other," Robertson said.
Coley thanked the assistant coaches, Stacy Anderson and Katy and Margine Bawden and presented them with purple-and-yellow bouquets.
"The assistant coaches held the team together," Robertson said. "They kept our attitudes positive and kept us in the game."
Freshman coach Scott Nossek handed out certificates for his players, emphasizing their work ethic and improvement over the season.
He said, although the team's record didn't reflect it, they were competitive in almost every game they played during the season.
Junior Varsity coach Dave Blalock also praised his team and doled out certificates. He thanked the assistant coaches for being positive role models.
All players will be back next season, except Cosay, who is graduating. The returning talent level, mixed with the devotion to one other and determination that these players have, promises to be a powerful combination.
Robertson was wearing a team shirt that said, "You can't buy this shirt. You got to earn it."
After a tumultuous season, these Lady Longhorns certainly have earned the right to don a shirt bearing that phrase.