TAMPA — Jade Givens went home and shot about 500 jump shots. She told herself she had to get better.
Laurie Beaty simply remembers how hard she cried. Losing never felt so bad.
When Jefferson takes the court tonight in the Class 5A district quarterfinal against Palm Harbor University, last year's 66-27 quarterfinal loss to Clearwater will weigh on the players' minds.
The Dragons have had a remarkable run since that terrible loss.
This marks just the third time in the 34 years since girls basketball began at Jefferson that the Dragons have reached the playoffs. Two of those berths have come in the past two years, and this year's district title was the first since 1979.
They're still looking for their first playoff win.
Even more noteworthy was how Jefferson got here. The Dragons are 25-1, and have outscored opponents by an average of 27.4 points.
The way they have taken out teams is not coincidental.
The Clearwater loss was humiliating, a 39-point drubbing that came with a running clock in the fourth quarter. Call it offseason inspiration.
"It was horrible," Beaty said. "I didn't know we were going to get beat so bad. I've never been beaten that bad in my life."
What makes this season different is the depth.
The Dragons brought on four freshmen, including Shayla Wilson (11.8 points per game), who have given Jefferson more than simply a strong starting five. There's a versatile offense capable of scoring all over the floor, and a stout defense.
"We don't have a bench," Givens said. "They're just like our starters. We don't have a weak area on our team. Last year we had our starting five, and that was it."
Beaty and Givens are each averaging roughly 12 points and are instrumental in helping Jefferson stay focused.
The latest feat was taking down Plant for the Class 5A, District 10 title. The Dragons swept the season series then added the 45-28 win Saturday for good measure (without Plant guard Michelle Taylor, who suffered a torn ACL).
So what about a potential trip to Lakeland and the final four?
"You don't know about that," coach Tom Mosca said. "You're on a collision course with whoever you play next. We play Palm Harbor, then prepare for the next game. That's the cliche, but that's the truth."
Izzy Gould can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3458.