Aislinn Duffy, Klaire Kirsch and Jayden Bies had been thinking about last Saturday night since they were in elementary school.
The St. Thomas More girls' basketball senior trio, who had been playing together since third grade, witnessed siblings and cousins win state titles, and they had even been along side some of those family members for titles of their own.
As seniors though, they wanted to leave their mark on a program that has already given them so much, and win a fifth straight state title. The Cavaliers did that on Saturday, with a 54-41 win over Madison at the Watertown Civic Arena.
It seems winning is a family tradition at STM.
"We’ve been playing together since third grade, and it’s always been in our mind to get a state championship when we’re seniors," Bies said after the Cavs semifinal victory over McCook Central/Montrose Friday. "I remember when we were sixth graders, we were the water girls and my sister, Aislinn’s sister, and Klaire’s cousin were all playing for Coach (Brandon) Kandolin at the time. Now that we’re actually here and it’s our team, it’s really special."
It seems that few years have gone by in the recent run of success that hasn't seen a Kirsch, Duffy or other familiar names on a championship roster. A lot of that is learned behavior. If someone sees their sibling do something, they'll want to do it to.
"I think the reason there’s so many families involved is that we’ve seen our older sisters and older teammates go through all the hard work to build this, that I think there’s a pride in that and people want to continue to build that legacy," said Ciara Duffy, sister of Aislinn, who graduated in 2016 and plays for the University of South Dakota. "It adds to it when you have families because you get to play with your sisters, and there’s a bond that’s created and I don’t think a lot of teams have that."
It's also not something any of the current generation can take lightly. As many in Rapid City know, with a name like Duffy, the expectation is that you'll be good at basketball.
Aislinn Duffy said she knows that, and takes upholding the name very seriously, if you want to call it that.
"It’s a great feeling. I don’t know if uphold is the right word," she joked. "My sisters and brothers set a really good example, and it’s been really fun to follow. I’ve had a lot of good teammates and they’ve had a lot of good teammates who have helped."
The Duffy sisters were watching from the stands Saturday night, and no one quite knows what Aislinn was going through like they did. They'd all been there.
"We have an appreciation for the pressure that comes with all that," Caitlyn Duffy, class of 2012, said. "As a sister, you feel like a parent in a way, and you're just feeling proud of not just her but all the girls who stepped up in such a big way and proud of the program as a whole."
Moira Duffy, class of 2014 and current player at the University of Sioux Falls, agreed.
"We’ve kind of been with her for her evolution as a basketball player," she said. "To see her step up on that big of a stage, we’re definitely proud of her."
Kennedy Kirsch was also in the stands Saturday, to cheer on her cousin Klaire, the floor general and sparkplug of the Cavaliers.
Kennedy graduated in 2016, so she has a few state titles herself, including her senior year title won in the Watertown Civic Arena. She said it's a completely different feeling watching someone you care about try to win a championship.
"It’s amazing to watch these girls win because these were the girls who were guarding us in practice, making us better, and that’s what helped us win it," she said. "It’s amazing to come back and watch them win it because they deserve it, they’ve put in the hours and the work. It takes me back to the time we were there, and I’m just as nervous watching it as I was when I was playing."
Added Klaire Kirsch: "It's definitely been an honor to carry on the Kirsch name. I've had two cousins play above me and I was fortunate to win a state title with my cousin Kennedy, and be along for the ride with my other cousin Madison. It's been amazing to have my family have my back through the whole thing and know they're expecting me to perform and come through."
The lineage of winning basketball even has Kandolin doing circles in time. Realizing that he has players who were very young when the winning started.
It was seven years ago STM won its first state title. And even though they weren't on the team, a lot of the seniors have been around for every single one.
"I saw a picture (Friday) of the very first state championship, and I saw this group of seniors in the background wanting to be a part of it," he said. "That’s a huge part of it. Success breeds success, and you have girls who want to get in the gym, they want to put in time in the summer. You hope they have that leadership to feed the younger ones and want them to get in the gym, want them to have that desire, work hard and have that ethic."