When the Southeast boys basketball team finished 9-13 in 2009-10, there was motivation to not let it happen again.
While admirable, it had an unintended negative effect.
"Coming off a disappointing season, everyone was thinking that 'I want to be the man to lead Southeast,' " junior forward Gavin Thurman said.
That led to selfish play as the Buffaloes hovered around .500 throughout the season.
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Southeast heads into tonight's Class 6A sub-state semifinal against visiting Manhattan with a 12-8 record and a five-game winning streak.
"We had to break out of that (selfish play) or we wouldn't win at all," forward Hayden Harris said. "Everybody plays an important role on our team. We had to realize that and realize what all our roles were before we started winning games."
The reason for the difference is clear to Thurman — the Buffaloes trust each other.
"We're having faith in our team," he said. "You can really feel it on the court.
"Trust is, if I'm driving and I kick it to Hayden, then I trust that they'll catch it and they'll hit (the shot). They won't turn it over. It's easy to pass it and play team ball when you trust each other."
Southeast had glimpses of strong play early, such as when it beat East in December. But it had slumps, too, such as the three-game losing streak to Kapaun Mount Carmel, Northwest and Heights in late January.
But the Buffaloes didn't put it all together until recently. It started after a disappointing 17-point home loss to East on Feb. 11.
The next night, Southeast won 110-86 at Derby. The Buffaloes then beat South, North and West by an average of 15.3 points before slipping past Kapaun by two in the regular-season finale.
"They've been playing well down the stretch," Southeast coach Carl Taylor said. "Their mental attitude, their team play, people that I expect to get stuff done are getting it done. It's a total team effort."
Thurman and Harris play crucial roles. Thurman is the City League's fourth-leading scorer (19.3 points), while Harris is fifth (17.5). Harris leads Southeast with seven rebounds.
Maybe the most important improvement has come from guard Reggie Williams (10 points, five assists). He's taken on more of a leadership role, he's more vocal and he's playing smarter.
"He's doing a hell of a job for me," Taylor said. "He's grown tremendously. He's running things. He plays defense. He plays hard. He's making better decisions, he's handling the ball well.
"He's doing the right things that a guard needs to do."
As he has grown as a player, the trust in him has increased.
"I think the last few games, he's been playing excellent," Thurman said."... He knows how to run a team. That's why I love playing with him."