It all started with a piece of bread.
The way Ciara Lyons tells it, her routine before every game this season involved two things: R&B and hip-hop music, and Captain D's bread.
"I got some bread from there before the first game of the season. We won, so I kept doing it all season," Lyons said. "One day, (my teammates) tried to all get their own kind of bread, because they said it was working for me."
Truth is, Lyons doesn't need much of anything to get her going. Ask Glenn Hills coach Bernard Bowman, and he'll tell you she's been a staple on the team, one of the go-to players, since her freshman year.
"Just having Ciara around all four years was very good," Bowman said. "She's a warrior, and she's played through a lot; having the flu, being sick.
"She's played through a lot of things I didn't think she could play through."
For being a leader on a young squad and for helping the Lady Spartans advance to the Class AAA Final Four, Lyons is the Augusta Chronicle Georgia All-Area Girls Player of the Year.
The way Bowman describes Lyons' offensive output makes you acutely aware that it's not her most important quality.
"About 20 points (per game)," he said. Her scoring average was 23.0. "A few assists and a few steals," he added. She averaged two assists and three steals per game. "About 85 percent from the free-throw line and 40 percent on 3-pointers," he estimated. Ninety percent and 40 percent, respectively.
That's not to say she's not a tremendous scorer.
But Bowman is more precise when he describes what could be Lyons' most important quality -- she plays harder than anyone else on the court.
"She's a competitor," Bowman said. "She's going to play hard all four quarters. ... She can attack the basket, she can shoot the 3. But when she steps out on the court, you know she's going to play hard for 32 minutes."
Although Lyons has always played hard, she remembers coming in as a bit of a hothead her freshman year.
She said an exchange with Courtney Snow, a senior who had been a part of the 2002 state championship team, made her realize she had to ditch the attitude to help the team.
"She came to me and told me that, all that I was acting like, we couldn't have that," Lyons said. "She said, 'Your attitude will determine how you play,' and it will determine where I go in life."
The situation this season was a far cry from that initial exchange. This time, another teammate provided what Lyons called the best basketball-related compliment she's ever received.
"I've had a lot of compliments telling me, 'Good game,' " Lyons said. "But the best one I had was when we had this poster up in school. You could sign it with anything about any player. One of my teammates, Brandi Lamb, said I was a great leader.
"It meant more to me than anything."
Lyons has not decided where she will play college basketball. "I just want to be comfortable in the environment," she said.
But stepping up her game to compete at the next level is an exciting thought.
"I love changing my game, making sure it's better than the last time," she said. "After the season, the first thing I did was watched tapes, trying to improve my game."
"I know I have to work harder than what I did last season."
After the Lady Spartans joined the Glenn Hills boys team in reaching the Final Four, where the boys won the title, both squads were invited to meet the Augusta commissioners, who gave the players a high honor from the city.
"I couldn't believe it, the day we went to the commissioners' office was the day of my birthday," Lyons said. "It was a wonderful birthday gift. We got a plaque saying we have an official Spartan Day on April 1."
Spartan Day will forever be the same day as Lyons' birthday. It's a fitting end to standout career.
Reach Justin Williams at (706) 823-3304 or firstname.lastname@example.org.