With every basket, every pass, every rebound, Taryn Cast is reminded how special this basketball season is to her and her Peaster Lady Greyhound teammates.
The senior was a forced spectator last season, a role she did not like thanks to a knee injury. Now that she's playing again, she's not missing a single opportunity to give every ounce of effort her now-healthy self can muster.
After all, it's the only time she'll get to savor a successful season with her younger sister, sophomore Tori Cast, so anything short of success is not an option.
"That's so important," Taryn said of playing alongside Tori. "Even though we bicker sometimes, like siblings do, I love my sister. It's so great to play on a team with your sister.
"When we make a play together or get an assist to each other, we'll just smile. It's the greatest feeling."
Cast, ironically named given her injury, spent several weeks on crutches as a junior. It was the result of a torn anterior cruciate ligament and partially torn maniscus. The injury occurred on Thanksgiving weekend.
"I think I played five basketball games before it happened," she recalled. "It was the last 40 seconds of a game. I jumped up to make a pass, and a girl's knee hit mine. It was really weird."
And while she knew she was injured, she had no idea to what extent. Then, she got the bad news.
"I was on a field trip the day we got the results. My mom texted me," she said. "I just sat there and couldn't believe it."
She also couldn't believe she wasn't able to get on the court and help her teammates last season, a season in which the Lady Greyhounds (24-9 overall) won the District 7-3A championship with an 11-1 record and advanced to the area round of the playoffs.
However, watching last season helped her become a better player this season, she said. She has come back to be one of the area's top all-around players as, at press time, she had helped the Lady Greyhounds to a 15-4 overall record and 5-2 in district.
"When you're sitting on the bench watching you see things differently, sor of from a coach's point of view," Taryn said. "Now that I'm back playing, physically I'm not as strong as if I'd played last season, but mentally I've gotten stronger."
Peaster coach Benita Carlton agrees.
"I'm so glad and excited to have her back," Carlton said. "She's a fun kid to coach. Last year, after the year she had in volleyball, I was excited for basketball season. She had a great start to the season last year.
"There's no telling how much further we could have gone had she been well. But I feel like everything happens for a reason. Her sitting on the bench and helping coach, she got to see a lot of things that we as coaches go through.
"I feel like this has helped build her confidence up because this is it. She is going to make the most of her senior year."
And, as thrilled as Taryn and her coach are for her to be back, Tori is equally excited to be there for her sister's comeback.
"Not many people get to play with their sister. Fortunately, I have the opportunity to play with Taryn during her last season," Tori said. "I couldn't be more proud of the work Taryn has put in to overcome her knee injury."
As much as Taryn loves basketball, it is volleyball she wants to play in college. She was able to return in the fall and help the Lady Greyhounds reach the third round of the playoffs after back-to-back state tournament appearances in 2015 and 2016.
Prior to her injury, Taryn received numerous all-state honors for volleyball. This season, though she returned, it was in an adjusted role.
"This past volleyball season I could only play a little bit on the right side. I didn't play middle (blocker) until district," she said.
She was nonetheless key in the Lady Greyhounds winning another district championship and going 9-0 in league play.
Now, along with playing basketball, she is also back to playing club volleyball full-time.
"I'm trying to play volleyball in college, and your junior season is when coaches look at you closest," Taryn said. "I'm coming back late, but I've visited some schools, mostly (NCAA) Division II."
Taryn wants to study biomedical engineering. She's also received numerous academic awards in high school.
But for now, she's working hard to help the Lady Greyhounds have the greatest season possible.
"This injury and comeback has motivated me a lot. This is my last go-round," she said. "I have to give everything. This is my last time to play with coaches, friends, and my sister."