TAMPA — His role and confidence diminished, Sickles senior backup guard Caleb Kamm approached coach Renaldo Garcia after Friday's practice for a brief man-to-man talk.
Essentially, Kamm wanted to know what he could do to play a role — any role — in Saturday's Class 5A region final.
"We had maybe a five-minute conversation, and I promised him, 'Caleb, I'll give you a shot tomorrow,' " Garcia recalled. "He kind of had that look."
True to his word, Garcia provided Kamm with an opportunity. The 17-year-old Alonso transfer reciprocated with the most mesmerizing eight minutes of his basketball life.
Kamm scored 11 of his 15 points in the final quarter, including consecutive 3-pointers and two free throws with 52 seconds to play, to help propel Sickles (28-2) to a 48-46 triumph against Clearwater (24-7).
Sickles, which entered the season with four new starters, plays in its first final four Wednesday in Lakeland against Niceville.
"I don't think he played a better game all year," Gryphons senior guard Jordan Davis said. "And I'm glad he picked today to do it because any other day might not have helped us. But today, he was the best player on the court."
In a tense, tightly contested game featuring 13 lead changes and two technical fouls, Kamm's back-to-back 3s keyed a 10-0 fourth-quarter run that gave Sickles a 43-37 lead. He had opened the period with another 3 that tied the score at 33-all.
"I don't even remember them. I just remember shooting the ball, and I knew it was going in," said Kamm, whose fourth-period point total more than doubled his season scoring average (5.0 ppg). "I remember I shot around earlier before the game, I had a good feel for the ball."
When Kamm wasn't scoring, the Gryphons' suffocating man pressure, and early foul trouble for Tornadoes 6-foot-9 center Okaro White, took the visitors out of their uptempo element.
White, an FSU commitment who was held to six points, picked up his second foul, a technical, with 3:52 left in the first period.
Re-entering with 5:10 to play in the second and Clearwater trailing 16-11, White sparked a 7-0 run. But the Tornadoes, who never led by more than four, couldn't sustain the rhythm.
"We've got to have his 18 points a game, and he just didn't get to ever get in sync," Clearwater coach Allen Carden said. "You've got to give them credit for that defense."
After Sickles' 10-0 fourth-quarter run, Clearwater answered with Joey Nungester's 3-pointer and a traditional three-point play by Dionta Hubbard to tie the score at 43-all with 59.3 seconds to play.
But Kamm hit two free throws seven seconds later, and White missed a jumper in the lane on the ensuing possession. Rashawn Rembert was fouled and sank two free throws to make it 47-43 with 18.1 seconds to go. Sickles, 5-for-14 from the free throw line in the first period, was 11-for-14 the rest of the way.
"I just thought the guys were resilient tonight," Garcia said.