The ultimate what-if of Terrell Stoglin's high school basketball career is almost unimaginably painful: what if Stoglin leaves Santa Rita without cutting down the nets?
"Yes sir, I've thought of it," he said, politely. "But I mostly think about what it will be like to win it. Think positive. We want it so bad."
The plans laid out four years ago were for Stoglin to take his club where only Eagles dare - up, up and away - and, in a sense, Santa Rita has reached those heights. In each of his four varsity seasons, Stoglin has taken Santa Rita to the state championship game.
Who has ever done that in Arizona before? No single player ever started for a four-year state championship-game team, and only two teams since World War II have gone 4 for 4.
From 1958-61, Phoenix Union won four consecutive state championships. Later, Tempe Corona del Sol, 1979-82, reached four consecutive state title games for big schools. Alas, the difference is that Phoenix Union was undefeated and Corona del Sol won twice.
After Santa Rita pummeled east-side rival Palo Verde 85-68 Thursday night in the 4A-II semifinals, with Stoglin scoring a game-high 27 points, it gave him 95 career victories and 2,889 points. Both are records for a four-year starter in Tucson prep basketball history.
"One more," Stoglin said before watching Amphi beat Williams Field in the other 4A-II semifinal. "I've waited all year - I've waited four years - for this one."
Can the basketball gods deny him, punish the Eagles, one more time?
"It's hard, very hard, I'm telling you," Santa Rita coach Jim Ferguson said. "I was feeling the pressure tonight. I hope it's harder on me than it is the kids."
The Eagles haven't forgotten the hurtful path to get to Saturday's championship game:
In 2007 at Jobing.com arena in Glendale, Notre Dame Prep nipped the Eagles 61-58. Afterward, Ferguson said "to be ahead pretty much the whole game, and then not finish, that's just a tough way to lose."
In 2008, back in Glendale and favored with a 28-3 record, Santa Rita was stunned 40-36 by Desert Edge. Ferguson said: "This one hurts the most. I really think we had the players this year to get it done."
And last year, 2009, on the same floor, Greenway withstood a late rally to win 60-58. "For us," Ferguson said, "it has almost become a burden."
But now the burden becomes an opportunity.
The Eagles aren't whole. They lost junior starter Roland Jones a few weeks ago (knee injury) at about the time Amphi and Palo Verde flexed their muscles and became recognized as genuine state title contenders in the 4A Gila Region.
But just as many were about to give up on Santa Rita, Stoglin stepped up his game, if that's possible.
Over the last 10 games, all of them victories, Stoglin has averaged 33.5 points, shot 58 percent from the field and produced far more assists (61) than turnovers (26). He is sizzling. But if the Eagles win it Saturday, it won't be entirely the Stoglin Show. Seniors Andre Hatchett and Dominique Kelley are terrific players, with some size.
This Santa Rita team is not as skilled and deep as the 1999 squad that Ferguson coached to the state title with a 29-3 record. Point guard Mark Brown became a starter for an NCAA tournament team at Utah State. Ryan Sonnek, Alan Batiste and Tony Scott made Ferguson's state champs possibly the top Tucson team of the last 15 years, equal perhaps to the '99 Salpointe Catholic club (30-4) that reached the 5A finals.
"Well, 1999 seems like a long time ago; it was a different era of kids," Ferguson said. "I'm very hopeful, for Terrell's sake, that we can find a way to win on Saturday. In my opinion, he's one of the best players ever in the state of Arizona.
"It would be a shame if he can't win the state title before he leaves."
Until Stoglin came along, the leading players in Tucson prep history were generally judged to be Cholla's Sean Elliott, Pueblo's Fat Lever, Santa Rita's Dave Feitl, Sunnyside's Jermaine Watts and Tucson's Hoagie Simmons.
Lever, Simmons and Watts all won state championships. Elliott and Feitl both lost, sad endings, in senior-year state title games.
Now comes Stoglin.
"Sometimes I'll think about it sitting in class," he said. "I've got some unfinished business."
BOYS 4A SCOREBOARD
4A-I: Tempe McClintock 72, Catalina Foothills 66
4A-II: Santa Rita 85, Palo Verde 68
4A-II: Amphitheater 85, Gilbert Williams Field 61