Their bond grew out of respect.
Doug Greseth and Tommy Tonelli shared a flare and philosophy for coaching basketball.
Their postgame handshakes evolved into a few rounds of golf and the occasional meal after a meeting or clinic. Soon, they were sharing strategies and developing game plans.
They've even co-hosted a preseason tournament for the past three seasons.
The lines of communication died last week when it was clear Greseth and Wesley Chapel would bump into Wharton and Tonelli in tonight's Class 5A region quarterfinal.
"When I didn't hear from him Saturday night I knew there was a strong likelihood we were going to be playing each other," Tonelli said. "I anticipated they would win their district. I know he was hoping we would beat Brandon."
Wharton's one-point double-overtime loss to Brandon set up the Wildcats vs. Wildcats clash.
Tonelli's Wildcats look tough despite losing four starters from the 2004-05 club that posted a school-best 26-3 record.
Despite starting four juniors and sophomore, this has been one of their best seasons.
Wharton has won 14 of its past 16 and is in its fifth region quarterfinal in nine seasons after going 22-6. Its losses have been by a total of 14 points.
Wharton also got the best of Wesley Chapel in a preseason game, though both teams were missing key players.
"They didn't have Ashley Thomas and we didn't have three kids who just came from football," Tonelli said. "We're both much different teams than we were at that point."
Wharton is led by juniors Shawn Vanzant (14.8 ppg, 4.3 apg) and Anthony Gomez (12.6 ppg, 6.3 apg). Vanzant started every game last season at point guard but has moved to shooting guard while Gomez has taken over the point.
"They're two tremendous guards," Tonelli said. "I can't think of any backcourt tandems as good as those two throughout the state."
Tonelli also has two forwards in Leonard Simmons (10 ppg, 7.0 rpg) and Anthony Manuel (3.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg), both 6-3 to 6-5, to counter Wesley Chapel forward Saladeem Dewberry.
Greseth knows Wharton as well as Tonelli knows Wesley Chapel.
"I think we match up pretty well," Greseth said. "They're pretty balanced. There's not one guy you can key on with them. There's nobody you can really key on."
Wesley Chapel has relied heavily on Dewberry (20.6 ppg) and Thomas (18.7 ppg) for scoring during a 16-game win streak.
Thomas has been especially hot lately, coming off a 45-point performance in the district final win against Ridgewood.
Now the only question is if Greseth and Tonelli's friendship can weather their first postseason battle.
"The 32 minutes we're playing the game we're trying like heck to beat each other," Greseth said. "We'll do anything we can do. We both understand that. At the end of the game we'll shake hands and have the same relationship we had before the game."
Contact Izzy Gould at (813) 909-4612 or sportsjournalistgmail.com.
TONIGHT'S REGION QUARTERFINALS
All games start at 7 p.m. Admission is $6. Winners advance to Tuesday's region semifinal.
WHO: Wharton at Wesley Chapel
WHERE: Wesley Chapel
WHO: Ridgewood at Brandon
IF YOU GO: Take Interstate 75 south to State Road 60 (exit 257). Take S.R. 60 east to Limona Road. Turn left on Limona Road and follow north until you reach Victoria Street. Turn right on Victoria Street and follow to the school.
WHO: Pasco at Eustis
IF YOU GO: Take U.S. 301 north to State Road 50. Follow S.R. 50 east to S.R. 19. Turn left on S.R. 19 and follow to U.S. 441. Turn right at U.S. 441 to C.R. 452. Turn left at C.R. 452 to S. Center Street. Turn right at S. Center Street and follow to E. Washington Avenue. Turn left at E. Washington Avenue and follow to the school.