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Boys basketball: Just getting to state not enough for Seffner Christian

SEFFNER - Seffner Christian forward Derek Webster flies toward the basket during the Class 4A regional final Tuesday night against visiting First Academy. Seffner Christian ended up winning the game 67-49 to earn its first trip to the boys state final four. Taken 2-21-17 by Scott Purks
SEFFNER - Seffner Christian forward Derek Webster flies toward the basket during the Class 4A regional final Tuesday night against visiting First Academy. Seffner Christian ended up winning the game 67-49 to earn its first trip to the boys state final four. Taken 2-21-17 by Scott Purks
Published Feb. 28, 2017

Seffner Christian's boys basketball program has been to the playoffs 10 of the past 11 seasons. That postseason consistency has hardly been noticed.

After all, the boys play at a school where the girls are a fixture in the state semifinals, with six appearances at the Lakeland Center in the past seven seasons, including its latest last week.

This season was different. After years of obscurity, the boys finally have the spotlight. The Crusaders are in the state semifinals for the first time and will play Westminster Christian at noon on today in Lakeland.

"The boys have been trying to reach that same level of success as the girls," said Seffner Christian coach Sam Moorer, who played at the school and was part of the first boys district championship team in 2007. "The girls have had incredible success. There's no jealousy. It's something we all admire and wanted to take that next step."

During the girls' run, the boys team made the trek to the Lakeland Center to cheer them on. Reid Walker has been there for all of them. The senior forward's sister is Peyton, the state finals MVP in 2014. The two often would play one-on-one. There was some banter during those sessions but Walker insists he received little teasing from his older sister about not being able to match her in state semifinal appearances.

"My sister knew the level of competition was different," Walker said. "They could just put it on cruise control and get there automatically. We've had a much tougher road in our district and classification. My parents are extremely happy. We're living up to our potential."

There are eight seniors, some of whom have played together since middle school, on the boys team. So there was a sense of urgency this year.

Moorer put together a schedule that yielded few easy nights. The Crusaders played eight games in the regular season against teams that made the playoffs. They also played in tournaments in Georgia and North Carolina.

That experience helped Seffner Christian in last week's region final win against Orlando First Academy, which was ranked No. 1 in the state and had several Division I-A recruits.

"That was such an unbelievable feeling to win against First Academy and make it to states," senior forward Derek Webster said. "It was kind of depressing, watching the girls be the only ones to make it. We knew we had something special this year."

The euphoria of getting there is over. Now the focus is on winning. The boys have leaned on the girls for advice.

"The girls have told us not to be nervous," Webster said. "We just have to go out there and play."

Today it will be the girls' turn to yell for the boys. With two more wins, the boys can nab the school's first state title in any sport.

"That's the goal now," Walker said. "We don't just want to be here. We want to win it all."