Bellevue's season ended Tuesday in the Iowa Class 2A girls basketball state tournament quarterfinals with the Comets' first loss of the season.
It came a year after the Comets ended their season in the regional final, one game shy of a berth in the state tournament.
There isn't much reason to think Bellevue won't continue along its upward trajectory next year.
There was already talk Tuesday afternoon along press row that the Comets were one of the very early favorites to win a state basketball championship in 2013.
The players have every intention of returning to this level next year and continuing Bellevue's quest for its first win at the state tournament.
"I'm not worried about next year," sophomore guard Ali Reeg said. "I know we'll work hard and we'll make good things happen."
The starting lineup for the Comets had one senior — one of four on the roster — a junior and three sophomores. So expecting to learn from this experience and improve is entirely reasonable.
Junior Kelsey Ernst, who scored 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in her state tournament debut, said she was already excited for next season.
"I'm sad that the season is over and we're losing our seniors. But next year, we'll get right back at it, and we can get a fresh start," she said. "It was a great experience to be out here. Hopefully, the playing we did today, will make us come out further next year and do better."
The Comets were better than the third-ranked team (IKM-Manning) in the state for the first half of a state quarterfinal. Bellevue beat Mediapolis, ranked as high as sixth this season, on its road to the state tournament.
"Now that we know we can do this, we're going to have higher expectations," Reeg said. "We know we can play with these tougher teams. It will give us motivation to work hard and be able to beat these tougher teams."
The team’s lone senior starter in the state tournament, Emily Anderson, said she expected Tuesday’s loss to motivate next year's team in a way similar to something that motivated this year's team.
"With the experience from last year — we lost one game short of state — it gave us so much drive," she said. "This is going to give the girls coming back next year that more drive. They're going to want it that much more."
While the loss was certainly met with sadness, Reeg took an approach more like Ernst's — that the Comets accomplished a lot this season and weren't done accomplishing things.
"We have girls in the locker room crying and they're my age," she said. "I'm like, 'Guys, we're going to get back here. We're going to be successful.' I'm sure by the time we leave, they'll be like, 'When do we start open gym?' We'll get back to work. They'll keep their heads up."