It's been nine years since Fillmore Central last participated in the girls state basketball tournament.
And according to head coach Mark Madison, it should've been last season that the drought ended.
"If you look on paper, last year's team was deeper, bigger and just as fast. That team, on paper, is better," he said of the 2011-12 Panther squad, which featured future Doane volleyball and basketball players as well as a Nebraska Husker track athlete.
But that's what makes this year's Fillmore Central team even more special.
The Panthers (24-2) earned the No. 3 seed in the state bracket, where they'll face sixth-seeded Wahoo (16-9) in the first round Thursday at 3:45 p.m. at the Pershing Center in Lincoln.
Fillmore Central made state this time around for two reasons, according to its coach.
"The girls really sold out on defense. They took their defense to a whole other level this year," Madison said. "And our juniors that we have, they're scoring more than I thought they would."
The Panthers head into the state tournament allowing just 29.7 points per game on defense. That's the best average of every team in the C-1 bracket.
That's why Madison feels his squad will compete and push for the state title.
FC's first matchup features the Warriors, ranked 10th in Class C-1 by the Omaha World-Herald. The Panthers are No. 3.
The Warriors don't bring the same firepower as Fillmore Central, but they've had some recent success at state. They were state runners-up in 2010 and 2011.
Offensively, the Warriors score 51.1 points per game and feature two good guards in Samantha Grandgenett (12.0 ppg, 61 steals) and Darcy Barry (9.3 ppg, 95 assists, 73 steals).
"We're very similar teams. They're fast-playing, small and athletic like we are. It should be a real good matchup," Madison said.