Last year's Seffner Christian team finished 24-5 and reached the Class 3A region finals. Without a senior on the roster, the Crusaders had plenty of reasons for optimism heading into this year.
Then Seffner Christian added a familiar face who happens to be one of the best players in the area.
"We had a great team last year," coach Greg Fawbush said. "This team could be better."
Tesha Hanson, a Division I prospect, transferred back to Seffner Christian this season after a year at Riverview. The senior guard has blended back into the team and Seffner Christian hasn't missed a beat, racing out to a school-best 12-0 record heading into a pair of important holiday tournaments starting tonight at 6.
"We were excited to have (Hanson) back," junior guard Sabrina Whiting said. "We welcomed her back. She's going to make us better."
And it's not like the Crusaders needed much help. Seffner Christian reached the Final Four two years ago and fell a game shy of it last season.
"Two years ago we were a bunch of overachievers," Fawbush, the only coach in the program's history, said. "Last year you could see the pieces of the puzzle coming together. This year we are a complete team."
It's hard to argue considering the Crusaders' results. Four players — Ally Parimore (12.2 points per game), Peyton Walker (15.3 points per game), Hanson (15.9 points per game) and Whiting (15.7 points per game) — are all averaging double digits.
"We're hard to guard because we have so many scoring threats," said Whiting, who has started since her seventh-grade season. "It's hard to lock down four people."
Whiting, Hanson and Parimore are all perimeter threats while Walker, who also leads the team at 10.9 rebounds per game, is a dangerous post presence.
"Peyton sometimes doesn't get the credit she deserves for how good she is," Fawbush said.
Undefeated, the Crusaders haven't been just winning, they have been dominating. Seffner Christian has defeated opponents by an average of 46 points and hit the 70-point mark in half of its games.
"Our goal when we go out is to get 70," Fawbush said. "If you look at the top teams (in 3A), that's what they are scoring. All of those teams are in that range."
Because Seffner Christian has been so much better than its county opponents, the team is looking forward to some stiffer opposition in the next two weeks.
"It's real exciting," Whiting said. "We haven't had much competition in our district, so I think it will be good for us."
First Baptist Academy, Strawberry Crest and Academy of the Holy Names will compete in the Seffner Christian Holiday Tournament beginning tonight. Academy kept it close earlier in the season, losing 75-57 to the Crusaders on Sept. 29.
The Crusaders will then travel to Fort Myers for the prestigious 64-team Queen of Palms Basketball Classic Dec. 27-29.
"The girls know it's going to be a rough three days, but they are challenge oriented," Fawbush said. "They just don't back down from anyone."
Brandon Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.