The national player of the year, a hometown hero and a proven veteran who has overcome a knee injury.

Kiara Wright, Brianna Bledsoe and Shanae Lowrance were tri-captains of Tarleton State's women's basektball team in 2013-14, and whether he returns to the bench for another season or not, they may be the best captains TexAnn head coach Ronnie Hearne has had in his 43-year career.

"They are all going to be really missed," said Ronnie Hearne as the 1,000-game winner spoke of the three senior leaders of his team. "When they think back to their careers at Tarleton, they will have a lot to be proud of. We won the LSC Championship, we won a conference tournament championship, we were 55-5 at home, and we reached the NCAA Tournament every year of their careers."

Those careers ended in a season that saw Tarleton reach new heights with its highest-ever NCAA national ranking of 14. The TexAnns won an NCAA Championship game for the second time in school history at the South Central Regional, and were competing in the national and regional playoffs for the fifth straight year.

Tarleton finished second in the Lone Star Conference during the regular season and was runner-up in the LSC Championship, both behind regional champ and Elite Eight qualifier West Texas A&M.

"When I first got here, West Texas A&M was already the team to beat, and I don't guess that's going to change," Hearne said. "But now I think the teams in our league look at Tarleton as one of the teams to beat, too."

Wright earned her second straight South Central Region Player of the Year, Lone Star Conference Player of the Year and Lone Star Conference Defensive Player of the Year honors. She led the LSC in scoring and rebounding at 19.6 points and 12.3 boards per game, and finished her career with an impressive 58 double-doubles. She averaged more than 20 points during the regular season.

And this just in - on Monday the reigning All-American was named Daktronics Division II National Player of the Year.

"It's hard for me to say Kiara is the best post player in school history because I know there were some good ones a long time ago, but she's definitely the best player since Tarleton joined the NCAA," said Hearne, and Wright's numbers back up that claim as she is both the leading scorer and rebounder at Tarleton since 1994, the year it joined Division II and the LSC.

Wright has the opportunity to continue her career professionally. She's been invited to the NCAA Division I Final Four for a combine featuring the nation's best collegiate women's players.

"She'll have the chance to work out and play in front of scouts from the WNBA and from professional leagues overseas," said Hearne. "She's a very special player. It's a rare treat to get to coach a first-team All-American. Most coaches never get to do that."

While Wright was writing the last chapter in the story of her prolific college career, Bledsoe was closing the book on her own local legend.

Bledsoe helped Stephenville High School to the first of what is now five consecutive area championships in girls basketball, scoring in double figures in all but one game as a senior. Then she signed with Tarleton, remaining in her hometown as she grew from seldom-used freshman to senior captain and an all-conference selection.

Bledsoe averaged 12 points, 4.6 boards and 3.2 assists as a senior.

Lowrance suffered a knee injury playing at Midwestern State as a junior, and it wasn't until the middle of her senior season that the LSC All-Academic honoree returned to her prior level of play. She came on strong to finish second in the LSC with 45 blocked shots while scoring 7.9 points and grabbing 4.6 boards per outing.

Tarleton was dealt a blow during the last half of LSC play, losing sophomore guard Morgan Ashmore to a torn MCL. Ashmore is expected to be back to full speed in plenty of time for the 2014-15 season.

"That's my only real regret is losing Morgan," Hearne said. "Not just because she makes us a better basketball team but because Morgan's a great young lady who deserves to be out there playing with her teammates.

"I don't have any regrets other than that," he added. "I think this team was playing some of its best ball at the end of the season, and you always want to be able to look back and say that, that you got better as the year went on."

He certainly doesn't regret the development of his underclassmen. Karli Moore missed the end of her sophomore season with a broken hand, but returned to provide quality minute in the paint, and Raven McGrath continued her development at point guard, even starting five games after Ashmore went down.

He also has no regrets about signing Kathy Thomas. The junior guard transferred from Iowa and earned the LSC Newcomer of the Year honor.

Ikpeaku Iwobi and Travanti Downes came on especially strong. Both true freshmen, they were a regular part of the bench rotation by conference tournament time, and each were significant to Tarleton's three post-season wins, two in the LSC Championship and one in the regional playoffs.

From an early-season 11-game win streak to a journey that eventually ended in defeat to national power Colorado Mesa, Tarleton waged an unforgettable 2013-14. For some it was the end of the road, for others the beginning of a journey.

"It was a season I really enjoyed. We had a lot of success, won some games we probably shouldn't have and lost some games we probably shouldn't have," Hearne said. "I'm proud of everything we've done."

Replacing Wright's production will clearly be one of the primary focal points of the off-season, but perhaps an even bigger question looms: Will Hearne retire?

"I'm still pondering that. I made a hasty decision last year so I'm not going to jump it it so quick this time," said Hearne of announcing his retirement to his team then changing his mind last summer. "I love my job, I love coming to work every day and I love working at Tarleton. Being here has been a big blessing to me and my wife and to our whole family.

"But I've been doing this 43 years," Hearne added. "I love it, but that's a long time."

And the 43rd year, his last or not, will likely go down as one of his best.

And one of Tarleton's best, too.