Could Candace have known?
Could Candace Parker have realized years ago, when she was DuPage County girls basketball at Naperville Central, what that little redhead she babysat for had in her future?
To Whitney Adams, the state basketball tournament before these last four years meant watching babysitter and family friend Candace play.
Now Adams and those three other special Montini seniors are back-to-back state champions. Just like that famous babysitter.
Talk about "meant to be."
"I honestly had no idea what going down to state would be like as a player," Adams said. "To win it this year, it's especially touching because I'm a senior."
Jason Nichols feels touched by these seniors. Whitney Holloway, Kiki Wilson, Adams and now Kasey Reaber turned his Montini program into one of the best in the state.
Nichols won his 295th career game Saturday, 125 with these kids.
"They're outstanding," Nichols said. "They have meant so much to this program. They make me look like a great coach. I am forever thankful for these kids. I love 'em."
These seniors' special connection goes way back.
Adams and Wilson, both from Naperville, have known each other since the second grade. They played against each other when Adams was at Crone Middle School and Wilson at Hill, and they played AAU together with Holloway.
"We were excited to play together on a school team," Wilson said, "instead of just AAU."
Nichols knew he was on to something when Montini took third in 2008, but at that point those freshmen were just pups.
Heartbreak followed the next year when Michala Johnson went down with her first ACL tear and Montini lost to Marshall in supersectionals.
Since then, it's 14 playoff games and 14 wins. And an especially dominating run this year.
"You don't know how it's going to happen over four years," Nichols said, "but after their freshman year when we got down to state and took third I had an idea. I tried to stay out of their way and not screw it up."
Nichols never let on publicly, but you knew he was desperate to not let this opportunity go to waste this year.
Seldom does a senior group like this one's come along at a high school.
In DuPage County, which is more a volleyball hotbed, they just don't play basketball like this at other schools. As a writer covering kids many coaches label a "college team," you almost feel spoiled.
Holloway will lace her sneakers up next at Notre Dame, Adams at North Carolina and Wilson at Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Next year at this time they could be gearing up to play in the NCAA Tournament.
But that won't be with best friends that they grew up with.
"I never expected to get down here like this," Holloway said. "A lot of people don't even get the chance to come down here. To get down here twice and win it twice, it's amazing."