All season, the Boca Ciega Pirates have starred, winning three tournaments, plus conference and regional championships.
Ranked No. 8 in the Class 4A state poll, Boca Ciega has normally been a notch above of the opposition.
Now, it is the Pirates' turn to look up.
Boca Ciega (31-2) is the underdog at 7:30 tonight when it plays Hallandale (28-1) for the 4A state championship at the Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center.
"They are a very, very impressive, athletic-looking team," Pirates coach Randy Shuman said. "They look like men next to our young guys. We have our hands full."
Hallandale, ranked No. 4, features a deep roster of 6-foot-4 and 6-5 players. The Chargers' guards can shoot, the big players rebound well, they run the fast break often and they play a stifling man-to-man defense.
"That's our strength," Hallandale coach David Daniels said of his defense, which has limited teams in the playoffs to 58 points (compared to 79 for Hallandale).
Hallandale, near Fort Lauderdale, lost its regular season-ending game to Sunrise Piper, 88-86, and avenged that loss in the playoffs, 97-64.
"Anyone can step up for us on any night," said Kareem Gordon, a substitute guard who scored 15 in the Chargers' 61-53 semifinal win over Bradenton Southeast.
The Chargers are not shy. Gordon later said of Southeast, "They were sorry. I thought I could step up and stop them."
Hallandale: Both Treywaun Sutherland and Sebastian Henry can play point guard. Henry is a scorer from anywhere. And then there is Gordon off the bench.
Boca Ciega: The Pirates rely heavily on point guard Corey Ellis to set the tempo. Shooter Dain Brown can turn on the heat. In the Pirates' 64-63 semifinal win over Springfield Rutherford, Brown scored eight points in the first quarter on drives. He and Ellis can both bomb from the outside.
Hallandale: Mike Mills (6-3), Kelton Reed (6-4) and Trejuan Kilpatrick (6-5) all look for lob passes inside. Mills also shows a nice jump shot, and Kilpatrick is the main rebounder (15 on Wednesday). Two 6-4 players come off the bench.
Boca Ciega: Henry Grant (6-3) can take over a game like he did with 11 fourth-quarter points Wednesday, driving and even hitting a three-pointer. Elbert Newton (6-3) has to rebound for the Pirates to have a chance (14 on Wednesday) and can be effective with short jumpers. Andy Bolin (6-3) is an underrated scorer and rebounder, and cannot be left alone.
Off the bench
Boca Ciega sends 6-3 Darren Howard and 6-3 David Ross to provide a spark.
One key for the Pirates tonight will be making their outside shots.
"If you don't hit your shots against them, you won't get to open up anything inside against them," said Southeast coach Bob Carroll, whose team shot only 31 percent against Hallandale.