LAKELAND — Boca Ciega was too young.
The Pirates were too one-dimensional.
Too inexperienced at the point.
Too prone to the bad shot.
Too small inside.
Too reliant on stars Tamara Taylor and Latavia Dempsey.
Yep, Boca Ciega was supposed to be all of those things.
It just took 32 games for someone to finally prove it.
And when they did, it once again ended here. In the bowels of the Lakeland Center, Dempsey tried to explain it, but what was there to really say?
Dillard was just better. Faster. Stronger.
"We played hard," the senior guard said, and the Pirates certainly had.
They started with a 9-0 run. They even led as late as the third quarter. They had chance after chance after chance to shoot themselves back into the game in the fourth quarter.
Instead, they kept shooting themselves in the foot.
Turnovers. Air balls. Layups left dangling on the front of the rim, or clanging hard off the back of it.
It may take a day or two for the Pirates to get over Thursday's loss, but they will have a reminder that they finally broke through and gave themselves their first chance at a state championship since 1996.
"Well, it's better than going away with nothing," coach Will White said, smiling and looking down at the silver medal around his neck.
His seniors weakly smiled when presented with the runnerup trophy, and then sheepishly walked off the podium rather than showing it off.
It will look a lot better this morning.
White was disappointed in the 53-44 loss, but the Pirates took another step forward after losing in the semifinals the previous two seasons.
With four starters returning, including Taylor, and an undefeated junior varsity team expected to replenish and bolster the bench, the future is what it always is at Bogie.
"I think we'll be okay," he said.
Dempsey, though, won't have another chance, and that may have made White sadder than anything.
The senior standout was a 1,000-point scorer, and a huge contributor to each of the past three state semifinalists. She grew from an introverted middle schooler to a team leader. She was an absolute pleasure to coach.
White said he was proudest when she assumed the role of team spokesman in recent weeks, and when it was over in Lakeland, she went over to her crying teammates, players who will get another chance, and told them, hey, it's going to be all right.
Dempsey ended her career Thursday with a performance she'd probably rather forget. She scored five points in the first quarter, and five the rest of the way. She didn't make a shot in the second half, and only took five. Then again, she barely had room to breathe, sharing her personal space with Dillard defender Jessica Jones in the final two quarters.
"Nothing she could do," said White.
It ended here again. But this time, Dempsey's head was held high when she walked out of the Lakeland Center on Thursday night.
That was certainly different.
So was the silver medal hanging from her neck.