ALBANY -- DyTiesha Dunson stopped in mid-sentence, pausing as her mind drifted back, then finishing her thought.
"It hurt,'' she said. "We should have won it. I feel like we should have won state last year.''
Dunson's statement before this basketball season started may be everything you need to know about the Westover girls' basketball program.
"Yes, we're hungry,'' said Dunson, who is one of the big reasons Westover has a chance -- a good chance -- to finish their unfinished business this season and win the GHSA Class AAA state title.
The Lady Patriots had won 13 in a row when they were upset in the second round of the state playoffs -- at home no less.
They lost to Northside, Columbus, which then promptly lost in the Elite 8 round to LaGrange. That's what bothered the Westover girls the most.
When they showed up in Macon at the Final Four to watch the Westover boys team play, they saw LaGrange, a team they had handled in the regular season, in the Final Four.
"That should have been us,'' Dunson said. "Watching LaGrange play really hurt. It was hard to get over, and now we are hungrier than ever.''
Dunson, who was an Herald All-Area player as a sophomore last year, leads the way, but there's a long line of equally hungry Lady Patriots, who return four starters. Ieshia Young, a 5-foot-6 junior, Cecily Colwell, a 5-9 junior, and Latisha Williams, a 5-10 senior who plays everywhere on the court, are back along with Dunson, a 5-8 junior who returns to run the floor.
Kahler Fletcher, a 5-11 sophomore who's got a sweet 3-point shot, Jenna Coley, a 5-11 senior, Alysia Potts, a 5-8 junior, and Briana Scott, all played last year along with Shanteria Williams, a 5-11 sophomore.
Sophomore TioAnnah Campbell and two freshmen, Denae Cheatham (5-10) and Achanti Layfield (5-6), could make an impact on a team full of talent.
Dunson led the team in scoring, defense and leadership, along with Williams. That won't change. But Westover coach Lewis Smith, who had only one senior last year, expects some other players to step up and play bigger roles.
"DyTiesha is the kind of girl where I could take a group of ninth graders and put them out there, and she would make them look like they are not out of place,'' Smith said. "But I want us to get to the point where all eyes are not on her. It's hard to be Superwoman all the time. The other kids have to be to the point where they can make big plays.''
She's capable of taking over a game, and Colwell had some big moments last year. Williams is an anchor on defense and Smith often calls her his "most valuable player,'' because she is so versatile she can play every position.
"We're not that tall. We don't have that one tall girl that some teams have, but we make up for it in our hustle,'' Smith said. "We've got a lot of girls back. We just have to teach the new girls the little things and get everyone to fit in to what we do.''
Smith knows how his kids feel about last year -- a brilliant 24-4 season that ended too soon.
"When we went to Macon for the Final Four to watch the boys team the feeling was that should have been us instead of LaGrange,'' he said. "We had a great season, but that kind of hurt, and now they are hungry. We've got talent, but a lot of things have to happen to get there. We have to be a little more disciplined, and you have to get the breaks.
"We should be past that. It's a new season. For most of them, this is their junior year. It's their third year on the floor together. We should be better.''
In short? Falling short inspired the Lady Patriots.
"We're more dedicated this year,'' Dunson said. "We should depend on each other more this year. Nobody wants that feeling again. This year everybody's heart is in it.''