When the Whale Branch Early College High School boys basketball team went into halftime of Saturday's Class 1-A state championship game with a 28-23 lead over Lewisville, the Warriors were 16 minutes away from their goal.
Two eight-minute quarters.
That's all that stood between them and the championship the players had worked for since the fall. Or longer, really. Years for some. Likely, for the seniors, longer than Whale Branch has existed as a school.
Eight minutes of basketball later, that goal was gone.
Lewisville landed a knock-out punch. After coming back from so many punches in this special season, the Warriors couldn't come back from this one.
The Lions blasted them 26-9 in the third quarter, turning a five-point Whale Branch lead to a 12-point deficit. The Warriors outscored the Lions 45-38 in the other three quarters.
"It was the difference in the game," Whale Branch coach Linc Lyles said.
The Warriors were tired, and on this day, the Lions were the better team.
"We've been where they are all year," Lyles said. "It kind of got reversed today."
But as challenging as the game was for the Warriors, a tougher challenge awaits.
The Whale Branch players can't let those eight minutes define them. They can't let the end result of the final game of a special season wash away everything it took to get here.
"I want them to reflect on everything that happened prior to today," Lyles said. "That's going to take some time. They're going to think about today for weeks. And they're not going to remember the things they did to get here.
"To get this far, kids don't want to hear this now but, it took an awful lot of skill and hard work and determination. And we had to overcome a lot of adversity. Hopefully when the hurt wears off a little bit, they will remember the things that got us here."
Whale Branch principal Priscilla Drake said the loss is disappointing for the players, as well as the school and the community, but it's a part of the game.
"They have been a real team throughout this season," Drake said. "I've seen the way they've grown and I'm proud of them."
And it's not just about what they did to get here.
For those whose high school basketball careers are over -- seniors Dee Delaney, Charles Jiles, Marcus Bell, Terrell Hazel, NyQuan G-Smith and Malik Spicer -- they will go on to college and careers that won't involve basketball.
"I told Dee (Delaney), his career is just starting," Lyles said. "He's got a full ride to The Citadel to play football."
Had the Warriors won, they'd have been the first Beaufort County boys basketball team to win an S.C. High School League championship since the Beaufort High Tidal Wave in 1945.
The Warriors can take something from that Beaufort High team despite the more than six decades that have passed. Members of that team went on to serve as mayor of Beaufort, serve in the military and play in the NFL. No doubt they carried lessons they learned in that magical season with them in their future endeavors.
The Warriors shouldn't let the eight minutes of the third quarter and the final score of Saturday's game define them. Instead, when they have time to look back, the Warriors should let the time they spent and the hard work they put in to get to this point, and what they do with the experience, speak for the young men they are.
"They're still winners, no matter what happened today," Drake said.