Among dozens of coaches from various states, there were two girls basketball coaches at a Pepperdine University clinic last offseason.
One was Dobson coach Tyler Dumas. The other was St. Mary's coach Curtis Ekmark.
Asked how their teams can be exploited, when it was Ekmark's turn, he mentioned getting the ball up the court and shooting from outside.
Interesting, Dumas thought.
Fast forward several months, when these two met in the 5A Division I championship. Despite going 0-for-7 against Gilbert and Highland during the season, the Mustangs learned a few things.
"You have to learn how to play that pressing style, which everyone in our region pretty much plays," Dumas said. "People did a lot of things to us and it starts with preparation. We got prepared for that style."
It was Dumas' ability to keep his team (and himself) calm and collected through the No. 1 Knights' frenetic pressure, plus a couple last-second shots by Andrea Jones, that gave the Mustangs their first girls basketball state championship in school history.
"A lot of things you look back on and go, 'Wow,'" said Dumas, who is Varsity Xtra's Coach of the Year for 2009-2010.
Given a core group that had played together since middle school, the pieces were in place. Kameron Knutson dominated inside and guards Johnelle Hannah and Andrea Jones made for a tough trio.
After a summer spent on improving the team's toughness - which Dumas credited to his assistant coaches - the No. 10-seeded Mustangs finished fourth in the brutal Central Region.
But they felt if they could get past the stigma of having not won a playoff game in four years, they had a chance to go places.
Their side of the state bracket was favorable early on, and despite foul troubles, the Mustangs beat Mountain Pointe and then won at Tucson to face Chandler, a school they lost to twice in the playoffs in Dumas' five years.
This time, the Mustangs beat Chandler's pressure to advance to the state championship while St. Mary's took care of nemesis Gilbert and Highland.
Dobson was up early in the title game, then trailed most of the way as turnovers mounted.
Though not one to stomp or scream, Dumas was boiling internally. His assistants encouraged Dumas to sit on the bench and exhale. Jones banked in a 3-pointer to force overtime, then hit a 10-foot floater in the lane for the game-winning shot as the Knights' last 3-point attempt missed.
"I was sitting back with legs crossed," Dumas said. "If I added extra pressure, it would have been worse. They responded. The only way I felt they would respond and compete is being calm and old demeanor. It was too big a stage for me to get after them.
"As well as I knew the girls, it took me a long time to figure out the way to motivate them."