One by one, the Sequatchie County boys' basketball players have bought in.
After a recent victory over Notre Dame in which he finished with 22 points and 19 rebounds, senior post Kegan Frederick said, "I had a good game tonight, but I could have had no points and not cared as long as we got the win."
This past Tuesday, after a defeat of Chattanooga Christian, guard Daniel Cartwright noted that "I just want to do anything to help the team win. I don't care if I have no points and 15 assists, or 30 points."
The focus for the Dunlap team is quite simple: The Indians want to go deeper into the postseason than they've been in quite some time, definitely deeper than in any of their high school careers. No matter what it takes to take there, which could equal more or less than any player is accustomed to doing.
The Indians are 17-2, 5-0 in District 7-AA. The undefeated mark halfway through the district slate is the best in "a long time," according to coach Jason Smith, as is the record through 19 games.
Frederick's emergence has been a big key, as the 6-foot-6 post averages 15.9 points and 7.8 rebounds. Cartwright's skills have been on display for three seasons, and although his scoring is down to 19.9 points per game, because of teammates such as Frederick, Rodney Smith and Dakota Hudson inside and Madison Tucker on the wing, his assists are up to 7.3 per contest.
"The guys have really stepped up -- both in the post and on the wing -- and it's really taken a lot of pressure off me to score," Cartwright said.
"Daniel and Kegan have been playing together since middle school, but they really jelled this summer," Smith said. "I think Kegan realized the attention being paid to Daniel and saw that he could have some success, and the two have worked well together. We run a lot of stuff that involves the two of them."
Cartwright is a smooth playmaker who has provided problems to opposing defenses for the past three seasons. He and Smith have worked hard to try to get him some recognition at the college level, sending videos out to a lot of schools, but Cartwright's decision not to play AAU ball this past summer has put him behind in recruiting.
"It's always been a goal of mine to play college basketball. I just hope to make it happen wherever I get that chance," Cartwright said. "I do believe my recruiting has slacked off because I didn't play AAU, but I'm just trying to do whatever I could do to hopefully get to that next level. At this point I'm leaving my options open, and I'll go wherever the best fit may be."
He's been pleased by the presence of some legitimate options on the court with him. Hudson, who also is a standout pitcher in baseball, averages 12 points per outing, while Smith is second on the team in rebounds and blocks and Tucker leads in steals. The hope is that the options will be enough to help the team advance to a sectional and possibly the state tournament.
"I feel like people look down on us because we're over here in the Valley," Cartwright said. "We're not just wanting to make a statement in the Chattanooga area, but in the state. We haven't had a state-tournament run in 20 years, so it would mean a lot this year because it's my last."
The state field indeed is a target, Smith said.
"Every year a team sets goals. That's definitely one of ours," he acknowledged, "but right now we're just taking things a day at a time and trying to get better every day.
"It would be great for both the team and the community. We know it will be difficult to do, but we're just focused on wanting to do things better every time we lace them up."