BRADENTON — Practice officially began for boys basketball on Nov. 4. Seffner Christian had to wait much longer than that to start its quest on getting back to the state finals.
All but two players on the roster were members of the football team, which advanced to the Class 2A state semifinals for the first time. That meant the Crusaders had to anxiously stand by until their two-sport athletes returned.
Last week, Seffner Christian’s storybook football season ended with a loss to Hialeah Champagnat Catholic. Once the players returned to school Monday, they headed to the court for their first basketball practice together.
“We really only had one day with everyone,” coach Sam Moorer said.
That was not exactly the way the Crusaders wanted to enter the season. After all, they opened up on the road against another defending state finalist, Lakewood Ranch.
Despite having little time to prepare, Seffner Christian nearly pulled off the win, falling 73-72 on a free throw the Mustangs hit as time expired.
“Given where we’e at right now, this bodes well for us,” Moorer said.
The Crusaders spent most of the first half still trying to find some cohesiveness. Early in the third quarter, Seffner Christian trailed by 20 points.
After that, things started to click. Michael Trigg and Willie Jones started to find their shooting touch as the two helped the Crusaders make a furious rally.
Twice, Seffner Christian took the lead in the final two minutes, the last on a dunk by Jones with 33 seconds left.
The host Mustangs tied it, forced a turnover in the final five seconds. As time expired, the Crusaders were called for a foul. Lakewood Ranch’s Luke Lecroy hit one of his two free throws to win the game.
Trigg led all scorers with 32, followed by Jones with 18.
“It’s a tough way to lose, but to battle back the way we did and have a chance to win against a team like this is something," Moorer said. “We’re going to be just fine.”