If you look closely at the Bandys High girls' basketball team, you will see a family.
While many high school basketball teams like to think of themselves as tight-knit units, the Trojans girls' team has connections that run especially deep.
It all started nearly a decade ago, when Bandys' girls' basketball coach Beth Queen coached the Catawba County Cobras AAU team along with her former Trojan and Appalachian State basketball teammate Mitzi Story and her husband, Mark Story.
Queen had her daughter, Chelsey, on the team, while Mark and Mitzi had both of their girls, Jesse and Madi, on a Cobra squad that consisted of 8-and 9-year-old players.
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Add in Taylor Sigmon and Sierra Brotherton, and the Cobras' young team unknowingly had the core of a future Bandys' basketball team that would become one of the top 2A squads in the state.
Those same five girls have been the nucleus of a Bandys team that has won 53 games in the last two seasons, while only losing seven contests, as the Trojans have gone to back-to-back 2A Regional semifinals, before losing to the eventual state champion, Salisbury.
"Bandys' basketball is definitely a family affair," Queen said. "If it's not one of our kids, then most of the girls feel like family. I have a daughter on the team, but to be honest, they all feel like my daughters. That definitely creates a bond that a lot of teams don't have."
The Story sister, 17-year-old Jesse and 16-year-old Madi have played an integral role in Bandys' success.
But the Story impact doesn't stop there. Their mom, Mitzi, is also Queen's assistant, while their father, Mark, Bandys' boys' basketball coach, is often at practice and even on the bench.
"We have been like a family for a while," said Mark Story. "I think that just makes Bandys' basketball mean that much more to all of us."
Jesse, a 5-foot-10 senior, and Madi, a 5-foot-11 sophomore, both bring different strengths to the table.
Jesse is more of an outside shooter, being at her best when she is spotting up for open jump shots. Meanwhile, her younger sister, Madi, is at her best when she is driving to the rim and working in the paint.
Jesse averages 12 points, three rebounds and two assists per game, while Madi leads the team in scoring at 15 points per game while also grabbing five rebounds and four steals per contest.
Sigmon (12 points per game) and Queen (10 per game) are also big factors in the Trojan squad that has started the year 17-1 and is tied for first place with Newton-Conover in the Catawba Valley Athletic conference going into the final full week of the regular season.
A big key to the rest of the season will be how both Story sisters finish as Jesse, who just missed a month because of a back injury, looks to work her way back into form, while Madi looks to continue her recent hot streak. She has averaged 21 points per game in the last month.
"It was definitely hard mentally and physically to not have Jesse in the lineup, because we rely on her for a lot of things," Madi said.
Jesse, who has signed a basketball scholarship with Lenoir-Rhyne, said there was no way she was going to sit and watch.
"I begged and begged and begged to get back on the court," she said. "I wasn't going to miss the last part of my senior year."
Now, the Storys and the rest of the Bandys team will focus on first trying to win the CVAC regular season crown and conference tournament and then move on to playoffs.
"Obviously, the state championship is the ultimate goal of every team, but it's not something we talk about every day," Queen said. "You have to focus on your next game. I think we know what it takes to make a run in the playoffs. Our kids are excited about the opportunity to do that again this year."
If they are going to make a deep run again, both Storys will have to play leading roles and both say they love the fact that they get to do it together one last time.
But after a lifetime of playing one-on-one battles on their backyard court, neither sister will concede that they will lose to their sister.
"I think it would be a good game," Madi said of a game against her sister. "But, I would definitely win."
Jesse had a different opinion of the matchup.
"I'd always have to say me, because I'm her older sister," she said.