Davenport Assumption has had its basketball season end in the substate final the past two years. It happened in the same building against schools from the same conference.
The Knights are eager to change that script this winter.
"We want to get to the state tournament this year," coach Matt Fitzpatrick said at Friday's Mississippi Athletic Conference boys basketball luncheon sponsored by the Davenport Noon Optimist Club. "We're real open about it and don't hide from it. We feel we're going to get over the hump.
"We have the right kids in here and the right pieces to do it."
Assumption lost to West Delaware in last year's substate final at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, 66-59. Marion, another Wamac opponent, tripped them up in that venue the year before.
Even with the departure of three starters — Dylan Peeters, Anthony Valainis and Ray Kotula — Assumption has a strong foundation in place.
It starts with senior Sean Peeters.
The 6-foot-5 southpaw averaged 16.2 points and 5.5 rebounds per game last season. And that was on a bum knee.
"Looking back, it really inhibited me on every single play," he said. "I couldn't do the things I used to do, so I'm ready to go out there and show what I'm capable of."
Peeters had surgery in April and was back on the court in June.
"I'm miles ahead of where I was at before," he said. "I'm not afraid to go out and get a rebound. At times last year, I wasn't as eager to attack or dive for a loose ball because my knee would be in extreme pain afterward.
"I'm playing fearless and confident in everything I'm doing now."
That's why Fitzpatrick believes Peeters will be one of the most dominant players in the MAC and in 3A.
"His explosiveness right now is incredible," Fitzpatrick said. "He's going to have an incredible year for us."
Peeters has shared the lead role with Dylan Peeters, Trent Fitzpatrick or Ray Thrapp at different points the past two seasons.
Coach Fitzpatrick said the offense will go through Peeters, who has scholarship offers from Winona State and McKendree University.
"I'm ready and prepared to be that guy," Peeters said. "From my freshman year, I've sat on the sideline and saw that player from every team and what it takes to be that guy and how hard you need to work."
Peeters is certain to draw plenty of defensive attention.
Because of that, the Knights have made shooting a focal point in the offseason.
Assumption was in the lower-half of the MAC in 3-point shooting last year. That percentage expects to hike this winter with the likes of Grayson Heiser, Logan Ehrecke and Dayne Hodge.
"If we can surround Sean with some guys that can knock down open shots, we've got a chance to be pretty good," Fitzpatrick said.
Peeters has seen improvement in that area.
"We were streaky and unpredictable shooting last year," Peeters said. "This year, even in our poor games, I don't think we'll be as bad as compared to last year."
The Knights haven't reached the state tournament since 2013. They've given themselves plenty of chances recently.
"There is more hunger to get (to state), especially with us seniors coming so close the past two years," Peeters said.
In a poll conducted among the coaches, North Scott was voted as the preseason favorite. Bettendorf and Davenport Central tied for second followed by Assumption and Pleasant Valley.
"We've got a well-balanced group," Central's Kaiden Phillips said.
North Scott returns two starters from a state semifinal squad in Ty Anderson and Sam Kilburg. Central brings back four starters.
Bettendorf graduated the player of the year in DJ Carton, and PV lost its top two scorers in Carter Duwa and Hunter Snyder.
"Quite a few of the veterans in the conference have left," Davenport West coach David Robinson said. "I think it makes (the race) more wide open."