Taylor Torres has faced four years worth of big moments as the centerpiece of Palmer's offense, but there was always the safety net of time.
This time, there's no tomorrow.
"I wouldn't say it went through my head right after a loss, but I always knew we could do it next year," said the four-year starter. "Now, there's no tomorrow if something goes wrong."
The guard will lead the No. 2 Terrors (22-3) into the postseason with a round-of-32 game against No. 7 Dakota Ridge (15-9) on Saturday night at Palmer's Erps Gymnasium. The home gym hasn't been particularly kind to Torres and Palmer in the playoffs in recent years. They are 1-2 in the past two seasons with a pair of upset losses.
It's that history and a sense of civic commitment that has Torres a little extra motivated this year. She's fully aware that just three Colorado Springs teams are among the 64 still alive in the 5A girls' and boys' brackets. It's enough to make her even root for rival Doherty as it enters play Saturday as a No. 2 seed on the other side of the draw.
Fourth-seeded Fountain-Fort Carson is the lone survivor on the boys' side.
"That goes through my head every day," Torres said. "Me and my family are really big on the Springs group. That's huge. Everybody looks south of Denver and they think, 'Oh, they're nothing.' They look past us. But we want to be the ones to prove everybody wrong."
Torres is blown away at how fast the end of her time at Palmer has come. She still has vivid memories of her first appearance in a varsity game in 2008. That was 1,589 points and 71 victories ago.
"It's hard to believe that these four years have gone by so fast," said Torres, who will play in college at Division II Colorado Christian. "When people tell you that you blink and it's over, it's so true. I remember freshman year my first game, the craziness in my head and I was so nervous and sweaty and just crazy. It's amazing how much has changed and how much some things have stayed the same."
Coach Dave Shackelford hasn't formulated a plan on how to replace Torres next year. He has time to worry about that. Right now he's just worried about preparing for Dakota Ridge, which he saw destroy Legend 63-23 in person in the first round Wednesday night.
But he's not so wrapped up in anything that he doesn't take time to enjoy the moment and the final weeks of his prized guard, the type of talent he says comes around once in a "blue moon."
"It's going to be strange," Shackelford said. "I looked at her today, watched her dribble down the court and thought, 'Wow, there's not going to be many of these days left.' You know, it is coming to an end. But she'll do well at the next level."
The goal now is to avoid the kind of letdown that occurred last year when Grand Junction raced to a 19-4 first-quarter lead in the round of 16. Palmer closed the gap but ultimately fell 48-41.
Torres said there's tremendous pressure to play well and those nerves she's felt since her freshman year will likely resurface, but those emotions are balanced by the general excitement of the moment. Regardless, she's matured enough over her four years to keep things in perspective. If the end comes Saturday or next week in the quarterfinals against Regis Jesuit or even as state champs, she knows it can't be prevented.
"We know that even if we do win it all -- which would be so great -- there's an end to it," Torres said. "That's life. Things come to an end."
TORRES AND THE TERRORS THROUGH THE YEARS
Taylor Torres' stats and Palmer's records over the past four years.
PPG APG SPG W-L Playoff W-L
2011-12 20.1 3.5 1.8 20-3 ???
2010-11 15.8 4.6 2.5 22-3 1-1
2009-10 16.0 4.5 2.5 18-6 0-1
2008-09 14.5 3.7 2.0 11-13 0-1