The bond between Annie Shain and Hannah Credille is unlike any other on the basketball court this year.
It was formed as the only freshmen three years ago on a senior-laden Wheaton Warrenville South team. They have shared ups and downs on the court since then.
Time has tested them with tragedy and heartbreak that no teenage girl should experience.
It has revealed their strength and character.
It was Nov. 19, 2007, two days after Shain's first high school game, that her mom, Joanne, was killed in a two-car collision at an intersection just south of Hubble Middle School.
The wake was four days later; WW South played that morning. Shain returned to the team the next week.
"It was hard to know what to say," Credille said. "Annie is a strong person who won't talk about her problems unless you ask her. No one had advice to make it better. I give her all the props in the world for making it through that season."
Shain didn't think of quitting. She was motivated to accomplish something for her mom.
Shain's brother, Brian, and sister, Jessica, were away at college, but her basketball family was there. Annie's teammates were regulars at the Shain house to keep company and offer support.
WW South won the DuPage Valley Conference that year, but that might not be the lingering memory for the girls or their coach.
"Our girls took Annie under their wing that season," WW South coach Rob Kroehnke said. "That season wasn't about wins and losses."
Credille was expected to be a big part of the team as a sophomore. Injury curtailed those hopes.
In June 2008 at the Glenbard South summer league Credille tore the ACL in her right knee. She returned for her sophomore year. But in a cruel twist of fate, almost a year to the day and one court over Credille blew out the ACL in her left knee.
Junior year was the hardest for Credille. Every tentative move was controlled by the cautions in her head. The knee healed. Credille ran. But more than anything, Credille needed to rehabilitate mentally.
WW South rebounded from a six-win season her sophomore year to go 20-10, but Credille played a reduced role.
"Realizing that I lost my starting spot junior year hit me pretty hard," Credille said. "Viewing from the bench was a mental struggle."
Credille wasn't certain she wanted to play again. Summer ball, injury-free, restored her confidence. Health-wise, she figures she has nothing to lose.
Why not go for it?
Similarly, Kroehnke calls Shain "a different player" this year. Shain feels she has matured. She feels more mentally prepared than other years. Credille said Shain is "still the same Annie." Down-to-earth. Cool.
But she is a stronger person.
The seniors who helped Shain through that freshman year set a good example for being a leader. Just the same, Shain and Credille are now there for young Sierra Bisso. The WW South sophomore tore her ACL during tryouts.
Now it is Shain and Credille there for Bisso, not forgetting about her and making her feel like a part of the team.
"They are the ones supporting the younger ones now," Kroehnke said. "It's neat how it has come full circle."
The girls have been through a lot.
It is a different story than they could have ever envisioned after that first basketball game freshman year.
"I'm glad it was with Annie," Credille said. "She has been a good person to lean on. It's nice to have one person that's been a constant during change."