If she has any control over the situation, Allina Starr and the rest of her DeLaSalle Islanders will be hoisting their third consecutive class AAA state tournament trophy on Saturday at Target Center.
Although they drew the second seed in the field, DeLaSalle's (25-4) combination of veteran experience and coaching pedigree will mark them as favorites to repeat once more.
As accolades and enthusiasm grow for the school on Nicollet Island, two of Starr's favorites will not be attending the state tournament in this plane of existence.
The fifth straight state tournament appearance for the 5-foot-10-inch guard will be the first championship run since the death of two close family members: her paternal great-grandmother, Odessa Faye Perryman, and her maternal grandmother, Shirley Jackson.
"Both of them had a lot of children. Hearing about their upbringing, being very strong and independent, they helped me become the strong, young woman that I am," Starr said.
Perryman, who grew up in Tulsa, Okla., was a fountain of current events knowledge as a result of her persistent viewing of local and national news programs. A softball player in her youth, Perryman was just as wise about the sport Starr has excelled in for the last five years on varsity.
"She was always at my games, no matter what. She probably knew the game more than I did," Starr said.
Jackson was an omnipresent figure at Starr's competitions. Away from her cheerful duties in Starr's fan section, Jackson was a detail-oriented character who enjoyed collecting vintage dolls and soaking in arbitration-based court shows, including Judge Judy and Judge Mathis.
Jackson also introduced Starr to a family tradition initiated by her brothers and sisters at holiday gatherings: they would host a dice game each year, and lucky rollers claimed a small prize from an assortment purchased at local stores.
Perryman and Jackson also ensured Starr's navigational systems were operational, always emphasizing tips for permanent success.
"Always be respectful, be someone that people look up to just like I look up to them," Starr said. "Life wasn't going to be perfect, but keep going and always chase my dreams."
The biological consultation remains a manifest in Starr's thought process, doubling as an indirect confrontation to the endless cycle of stereotypes surrounding her neighborhood in north Minneapolis.
Whenever she sees a troubling situation, the family bond discourages her from engaging in such activities.
"I would always think how would this affect my family. Even though I've seen other people doing it and they weren't getting in trouble for it, it didn't make it right for me to do it," Starr said.
The Auburn recruit and Oklahoma City Thunder backer has been described by her coaches as a "gym rat," a phrase Starr accepts.
She was astonished at the number of local media during the 2012 state tournament rout, and her focus on perfecting basketball skills did not diminish this season. No matter who was on the court during warm-ups, Starr's attention was impossible to divert.
"I'm strictly an athlete. While people are out partying, I'm usually in the gym shooting or working out. I don't stay out late at night. Never been that type. I don't find it fun," she said.
Starr's support structure (which includes a Twitter audience of nearly 1,000) comprehends the importance of basketball and reluctance to jeopardize that pursuit. Perryman and Jackson recognized that priority, and reminded Starr of its meaning when the 17-year-old questioned her desire to play basketball during her freshman year.
At that time, Starr was still settling in from her move to north Minneapolis, which was coupled with a relocation from Minneapolis North in eighth grade to DeLaSalle in ninth grade, coinciding with the transition of her head coach, seven-time state champion Faith Johnson-Patterson.
"I had a downfall, where I felt like I didn't want to play anymore. I talked to them about it. We sat down and talked about how much I've been through with basketball and what would happen if I gave up then," Starr said. "They didn't force me to do anything."
Clearly, the conversation convinced Starr to resume course, which is marked with over 1,000 career points, an All-State selection last year, and earning a spot on the honor roll in every year of high school (she carries a grade-point average of 3.6).
However, the first metaphorical "road hazard" was encountered on March 13, 2012, a day before Starr began her quest to a second straight class AAA title, when she learned of Perryman's death.
Starr's first inkling was observing her father's grim mood
"We drove a couple blocks and pulled over and then he told me what happened. I completely broke down, meanwhile, I had practice in a half-hour. We had the banquet as well," she said.
Starr's father asked if she had enough willpower to attend practice and the pre-tournament banquet. The senior guard was present for both, envisioning what her fallen confidante would tell her.
"She wouldn't want me to cry and be sad. She would want me to be out on the court, playing as much as I can," Starr said.
Still, emotions were volatile for a player who stood up for her teammates through their harrowing experiences, ranging from an ACL tear to Mia Loyd and a heart attack suffered by Tyseanna Johnson's younger brother.
Starr's gestures of comfort were reciprocated.
"On the court, it seemed like everything was fine. As soon as the game was over, I was bawling. They were there to wipe my tears and tell me that everything was OK," she said.
On March 26, nine days after claiming a second straight state championship (which she dedicated to Perryman), Jackson died. She had yet to push 60.
"No one knew. No one will understand why. I had to take a week off from school because I was way too stressed out and having both of them pass away so close, it hurt a lot," Starr said.
During the grieving process, Starr solidified her athletic desires. There will be no further contemplation, although she still weeps periodically when reflecting on their commitment to her success.
"They expected so much out of me. I felt like there is no reason to give up or quit. I just have to push myself even more. I need to do it for them and myself," she said.
If the Islanders do acquire another state tournament crown, there is a high likelihood Starr will dedicate the win to the memory of Perryman and Jackson once more.
Some followers may see Starr as simply another cog in the motor of Johnson-Patterson's coaching success, with Starr and Johnson representing the 18th and 19th Division I recruits in her tenure.
Even if Starr merely fills a presumption, credit belongs to two grandparents who earned an overflowing well of respect from an athlete who always understands how success is created.
"I would thank them, tell them that I love them. I know they're by my side, no matter what," Starr said.