SPRING HILL — Springstead picked the perfect time to play its best basketball of the season.
Hosting the Class 5A, District 7 tournament, the Eagles shocked Ocala West Port 65-41 to advance to the state playoffs for the second consecutive season.
Springstead (6-16) struggled in two previous meetings against the Wildcats (8-13) this season, losing both, but the Eagles came out with a ton of raw emotion led by senior captain Nick Steadman (18 points, five assists, four steals).
"I wanted this (game) as bad as I've wanted anything I've ever wanted," Steadman said. "We had something to prove."
As the only player remaining on the roster from last season's state final team, Steadman wasn't ready to end his career on Tuesday night. From the opening tip he pressured the opposing backcourt and set up teammates Will Hall (17 points, 10 rebounds) and Naquan Innis (15 points, seven rebounds, three steals) as Springstead built an insurmountable 33-19 halftime advantage.
"I'm not ready to make any predictions for Friday night," Springstead coach Steve Thompson said, "but we took care of business tonight."
Earlier, Central was sent packing at the hands of the district's top seed. Ocala Forest had a running clock throughout the second half in its 70-21 victory over the Bears.
The Wildcats (22-2) had 11 players in the scoring column and forced more steals (30) out of Central (4-19) than the Bears had points.
Forest began the game on a 14-0 run and never looked back to claim its spot in the state playoffs and Friday's district championship game.