NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - After you win one championship, there's no denying all eyes are on you to see if you can do it again. Then once you win back-to-back championships, the stakes get even higher to repeat with a three-peat.
That was the case for the SFA men's basketball team however, pressure was something the 'Jacks said they rarely felt.
"I don't think pressure because we all want this. We all want another title, we all want to build," said SLC player of the year, Thomas Walkup. "We go into every season expecting to win a title because that's what we're trying to do here. I don't think that's pressure."
"I don't necessarily feel pressure. It's just preparation," said junior Trey Pinkney.
Winning doesn't become pressure when 15 men come together, all chasing the same thing. Instead, it becomes more of a daily grind.
"I'm a lot simpler than that. I don't look at it as an overall season," said SLC coach of the year, Brad Underwood. "I look at it as a game-to-game basis and I think if there was any pressure it was to make sure every day we did our best."
With a new year comes new faces, and for Underwood he said the only pressure he felt was molding the old with the new into one cohesive unit.
"We had five, six new faces that all had to blend in to try and work to accommodate a group of guys and make them fit together like pieces in a puzzle. That was probably more pressure than any game," said Underwood.
After accumulating two years of dominant seasons, going 18-0 the year before, by the third year that's going give the other 12 teams fighting for an SLC title envious eyes
"There's so much riding on it, so little time to prepare sometimes, and you get so little sleep so you feel a little relieved, but I couldn't be prouder. This team has dealt with tremendous expectations and coming off of last year, they've had a bullseye on their back. We've taken everyone's best shot," said Underwood.
"I definitely feel like we have a target because of how many games we've won in the past two years," said Pinkney. "People say to themselves, 'Oh I want to take them down' because we've won so many games."
While carrying the biggest targets on their backs where every team was aiming to fire at the Jacks, to build pressure on top of that, it came down to the very last game against rival Sam Houston state as the determining factor on who would clinch the overall title.
If the task wasn't challenging enough, 7,328 pairs of eyes watched the 'Jacks to see if they'd rise to the occasion, or fall from their empire.
"Absolutely there's pressure in every single game, but coach said we were not going to share a title and that we were going to win it out right," said senior Jacob Parker. "Him being on us every day at practice and throughout the season has prepared us to do what we've done."
"We've come to a point where that's my ultimate goal is to win championships and rings," said Underwood. "We go out trying to make our players better every day. We go to practice to prepare to win every game, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, but it's all about championships."