The T.C. Williams girls’ basketball team does not mind the pressure or the expectations. Players encourage both. They remind each other of what happened last season, that gut-wrenching loss to Fairfax with a spot in the state tournament on the line.

The mantra of the 2016-17 season is “Don’t come up short,” sophomore point guard Trinity Palacio said. 

The goal is a spot in the state tournament, the same as last year. Once a team reaches that pinnacle, anything can happen in Richmond, she said. The Titans (17-1, 10-0 Virginia Conference 7) expect to reach their destination this year.

They talk about it in practice, Coach Kesha Walton said. When the ball isn’t moving on offense the way it should, when defense looks lackadaisical, when loose balls linger on the floor too long without a player diving for them, “Don’t come up short,” Walton says.

“Last year’s team was one of the best we’ve had around here in a while,” Palacio said. “We don’t want to miss out on this chance.”

This year’s team is just as good, if not better, Walton said. T.C. Williams graduated a single senior after last season. Palacio led the offense as a freshman and was tasked with keeping the Titans’ ducks in a row. She grew into the role as the season progressed. Now, she’s embraced it, Walton said.

She’s leading the team in scoring with 14.7 points per game. Against Fairfax in the playoffs, she had seven.

“We knew that we were one game away,” Walton said. “That made the girls hungrier.”

 Coaches frequently speak of the virtues of losing a game in January to learn lessons that will help in March. Walton does not subscribe to such a philosophy. Her Titans beat Lake Braddock at the start of the season by 19. Two weeks ago, they won by five. 

Not okay, Walton told her team. Sure, good coaches make adjustments, but letting one game slip away, that’s what happened last year. 

“It’s a lot of pressure,” Palacio said. “But if we stay focused and take it one game at a time like we know we can, we know we can beat the rest of these teams. We’ll be fine.”

The Big number: 48

Points scored by Herndon’s Indeya Sanders and Devyne Newman to fend off No. 19 Oakton last Tuesday. The rest of the team combined for 11 points. The No. 17 Hornets swept the Cougars in their two regular season meetings.

Northern Virginia player of the week

C Clara Ford, Marshall, Jr.

Ford combined for 47 points in back-to-back games last week. She scored 23 points in a loss to Briar Woods on Wednesday, and 24 in a win against Edison on Friday.