"I remember sitting there watching and just wanting to be like them," current Benton junior Mallory McAndrews said. "I've dreamt about it ever since then to just even be able to go to state."
Now seven years later, McAndrews' dream is coming true.
The Cardinals are back in the final four for a third time under head coach Brett Goodwin, but the current Cards have taken a different route than the '07 champs.
"That group was exceptional," Goodwin said of the 2007 team, "but to see a group like this who exceeds the littlest expectations and get to this point is about as overwhelming as anybody could be."
Benton's reeled off ten straight wins by an average margin of victory of 16.4 points on the way to the Class 4 Semifinals. It's a run that even has some of the team surprised.
"I'll be honest, I didn't expect this at all," McAndrews said. "Last year I expected it, but this year it was a surprise to everyone."
"I knew we had some returning starters so we'd be good; we'd have Daejah at the point guard so we'd be pretty good," senior Lindsay Doolan said, "but I didn't expect us to get here."
One month before the district tournament began, the Cardinals outlook to get past districts looked bleak. They ran into a rough patch losing four games in a row.
That's when they turned the corner.
"After that last game we lost, we all came together and we just made team goals. We didn't want to be that team anymore. We wanted to be successful," McAndrews said.
"It takes a little bit of team chemistry, a little team building to kind of get yourselves out of that funk," Goodwin said. "I don't think there's any question that these girls did that."
The 2014 Cardinals aren't the powerhouse that Benton was the last time it was in the final four, but they have a quiet confidence that's carrying them to Columbia.
"I don't know what it is," McAndrews said, "but we have something and it's great."
"We just do what we do. We go out there and we play hard, we play together, we play with a lot of passion and we guard," Goodwin said. "If we can continue to do that, I'm not saying we're going to go down there and light the world on fire, but we're going to go down there and compete and we're going to make things difficult for the other team."
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