It's a moment Candace Wells still remembers very vividly.

She watched as the Model Laboratory soccer team claimed its first district title in 11 years with a dramatic shootout victory over Madison Southern.

"Just seeing how happy the players and the coaches were, that was one of the highlights of the year for me," said Wells, the Model Laboratory girls basketball coach. "It was very emotional."

In the middle of that joyful celebration were several of her basketball players — including McKenna Tuttle, Mary Alex Taylor and Keaton Hall.

"There's no reason why the smallest school our district should have won that championship," Wells said. "They did something unthinkable."

An improbable goal turned into a reality.

And the players who helped the Lady Patriots win that district title carried that momentum — and that inspiration — over into basketball season.

"When they came to the first practice, they were ready," Wells said. "They didn't care if it had been more than 40 years since the last championship."

Model has not won a 44th District girls basketball title since 1976.

The Lady Patriots, though, have four starters back from a team that won 19 games last season. They have experience, talent — and perhaps just as importantly — they believe they can make history, too.

"(The success of) the soccer team has been great because now everybody in our school and our district knows we can compete," Wells said.

The Lady Patriots (19-11) snapped a streak of nine-straight losing seasons a year ago.

They didn't graduate anyone from that team, but did have three players transfer — Summer Ray (8.9 points a game), Presley Lochmueller and Sophia Kuntz.

Model brings back its top four scorers, including Tuttle.

The 5-foot-3 senior point guard is the vocal, emotional leader of the team. She averaged 11.7 points and 2.6 rebounds a game last season with hitting 21 three-pointers.

She also was the starting goalie for the district championship soccer team.

"I know how bad she wants to be a winner," Wells said of Tuttle.

Hall had a breakout sophomore season. The 5-foot-8 guard/forward averaged a team-best 12.5 points a game and also pulled down 5.1 rebounds a game.

The junior put in extra effort during the offseason, played on a travel team and starting to draw attention from college coaches.

"She is becoming everything we thought she would be," Wells said of Hall. "She can drive. She can pull up from mid-range. She finishes really well. She is going to score however you get the ball to her."

Taylor LeCompte has developed into a force on the inside for the Lady Patriots the past couple of years.

The 5-foot-11 junior averaged 8.8 points and team-best 9.3 rebounds a games last season.

"She's a double-double machine," Wells said of LeCompte. "She can consistently put up 10 and 10."

Junior Kenzie Fergusion played in all 30 games last season. She hit a team-high 33 three-pointers and averaged 8.2 points a game.

"She always brings energy. She's a straight-up hustle player all the time," Wells said of Ferguson. "She dives on the floor. She boxes outs. She will not quit, ever."

Model's starting line-up — Hall, Tuttle, Ferguson, LeCompte and Ray — accounted for more than 90 percent of the team's scoring last season.

A big focus a has been on developing some other players who can contribute offensively, especially after Ray transferred.

"There was a huge drop off," Wells said of the team's scoring last season. "We have some kids who are great listeners and work hard, but haven't been put into those roles."

Senior McKenzie Johnson (1.5 ppg) and sophomore Avery Tuttle (2.0 ppg) each played in 24 games last season.

Taylor, a senior, could also see more playing time as well.

Megan Perkins had a strong finish to her freshman season and has continued to make big strides in the offseason.

"Megan has put in a lot of work," Wells said.

Sophomore Alyssa Hudson has recovered from a foot injury and will be much more a factor.

The Lady Patriots might also get a significant boost from a seventh-grader.

E.K. Lawson averaged more than 20 points a game in middle school games this season.

"She has the most up-side of any players I've ever coached," Wells said of Lawson. "She is unreal. She is physically ready to compete against high school kids."

That mix of talented returners, newcomers and developing players have the Lady Patriots believing they too can bring a long-awaited district title to the schools.

They also have other goals as well.

"The (11th Region ) All 'A' is big for us," Wells said. "I told the girls that the schedule is constantly changing and I don't know how many games we will get and McKenna said, 'I want to get 20 wins.' That's our goal. I'm excited for Jan. 4 to get here."

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