ST. PETERSBURG — For a long time there was no change. There was just the reliability of smart, methodical boys basketball, as old as the brick in the buildings that used to frame the sprawling Shorecrest Preparatory campus.
Sure, a few seasons ended with playoff berths, but plenty of others were forgettable.
But the past three years have brought sweeping changes, to the school and the basketball program. The campus is now dotted with sleek, new buildings — the crown jewel a $4.5 million athletic center that is home to basketball.
The Chargers have gone through their own transformation on the court, winning three straight district titles after making just four playoff appearances from 1983 to 2009. Tuesday night at the Lakeland Center, Shorecrest (23-8) will make school history by playing in the Class 3A state semifinals for the first time.
“We’ve done a lot to change how everyone views the program,” senior guard Ricky Quiroz said. “But the biggest difference has been with the coaching.”
Shorecrest coach Daryl Blume brought the same unbound passion to succeed to Shorecrest that had always governed his life. Players fed off his energy until they ran at a pace that turned every game into Armageddon.
Blume, 54, a guard at Division II Francis Marion, grew up in a slow, halfcourt game. That changed after he moved to St. Petersburg in 1980. Blume started playing with former standouts in the area on an adult league team that competed in the preseason against D-II and junior colleges around the state.
“They ran up and down the court, took shots,” Blume said. “That’s the way I wanted to play and coach.”
Blume coached AAU basketball before becoming a volunteer at Shorecrest in 2009, then JV coach in 2010. That year, the Chargers’ varsity program was 3-7 when coach Brian Marchetti stepped down. Blume was urged to take the job.
“I was a little hesitant to do it,” Blume said. “I wanted to be able to stay in the shadows, but the varsity team needed someone to step in quickly.”
Scrapping a grind-it-out system for more of a frenetic pace, the Chargers went from averaging 45 points per game to 65. They closed out the season by winning 11 of their final 12, including a come-from-behind overtime victory over Admiral Farragut that secured
Shorecrest’s first district title in more than a decade.
“I was supposed to just finish that year and be out,” Blume said. “But we had a young team and we were having so much success that I wanted to stick around.”
Blume did more than stay. He had his hands everywhere in the program, including the building of a new gymnasium.
Blume, who owns BCH Mechanical, a construction contracting company, kick started the fundraising efforts by donating $500,000 that the school had to match. He also helped with the design and planning stages and donated materials and services for the plumbing, lighting and air conditioning.
The athletic center, which broke ground in April, was completed just before the start of basketball season in November.
“I went from a parent to a volunteer to coach to diving right into everything,” Blume said. “I wanted to see a new gym in place. I know the economy is bad, but I figured this was the time to do it while we’re still having some success.”
While the athletic center was under construction, Blume tried to find a place for his son, Luke, a senior guard, to practice. So he transformed one of the warehouses he owns in Pinellas Park into a gym. That structure is now the Basketball Warehouse, a facility that conducts camps and holds practices for club teams.
“The coaching and training that I’ve got with the coaching staff is phenomenal,” sophomore forward Jay Joyer said. “When I got here, they welcomed me with open arms. It’s great here because they allow you to take the open shot.”
Added Blume: “The old notion was that we had a bunch of slow guys who can’t jump on the basketball team. I think we’ve changed that whole mind-set.”
The nucleus of players that helped turn Shorecrest into a consistent contender will be graduating, including Quiroz and Luke Blume, the Chargers’ top scorers. Without his son to coach, it was widely assumed Blume would be leaving as well.
“I’m pretty sure I’ll keep coaching,” Blume said. “I’m having too much fun to stop now.”
State boys basketball semifinals
Where: Lakeland Center
Admission: $10 per session; parking is $7
TV: BHSN will air the finals
• 3A: Tampa Prep vs. Jacksonville Providence, 7 p.m. Tuesday
• 3A: Shorecrest vs. Weston Sagemont, 8:30 p.m. Tuesday
• 4A: Berkeley Prep vs. Fort Lauderdale Pine Crest, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday
• 5A: Nature Coast vs. Jacksonville Terry Parker, 6 p.m. Thursday
• 7A: St. Petersburg vs. Pompano Beach Ely, 4 p.m. Friday
Tuesday's other games
• A: Greensboro West Gadsden vs. Chipley, 10 a.m.
• A: Lake Butler Union County vs. Hawthorne, 11:30 a.m.
• 2A: Orlando Christian Prep vs. Tallahassee FAMU, 2:30 p.m.
• 2A: Hialeah Champagnat vs. Boca Raton Grandview Prep, 4 p.m. the Lakeland Center