TAMPA — In the beginning of the season, the goal was simply to win district, because the King boys basketball program's history hadn't allowed the Lions to dream much further.
They entered the year having never won a region tournament game, and the banner in the school's gym shows just three playoff appearances.
But inside that gym Saturday night, this Lions team captured its first region title and clinched its first berth in next week's Class 5A final four at the Lakeland Center with a dominating 87-46 victory over Daytona Beach Seabreeze.
"A lot of people were sleeping on us," King senior Adrian Federick said. "We worked so hard for this all year long. We showed it on the scoreboard today. We were just so fired up for this win.
"We're ready to go to Lakeland."
The win was the 21st consecutive for King (23-6), but the Lions battled through their share of adversity. They forfeited their first four wins of the season for using an illegal player, and the state polls ignored them all season.
But Saturday night ended with the Lions players cutting down the net and their coach choked up in the moment.
"I've been pointing at that banner up there," King coach Sam Lanier said. "They just wanted it so bad this year. We had a tough time early in the year. It was really tough. I challenged them to work hard, and if they played good defense it would all work out."
Senior Toarlyn Fitzpatrick turned in one of his best games with his second career triple double (18 points, 18 rebounds, 10 assists). Sophomore Reshard Brown was 8-for-9 from the free throw line down the stretch, finishing with 16 points and six rebounds. Senior Andrew Donaldson added 13 points and six rebounds, while Federick had 14 points and three steals.
"We want to prove to everybody who thinks King doesn't have a good program, we want to prove them wrong by making a statement at the state tournament," Fitzpatrick said. "We're just now starting to turn heads."
The Lions broke the game open by ending the first quarter with a 16-4 run. They went on to take a 45-24 lead over the Sandcrabs (19-8) and never looked back.
"We weren't going to beat them unless we played our best," Seabreeze coach Mike Austin said. "That's a big, athletic team with a lot of quickness. We didn't match their intensity level."