ST. PETERSBURG — As the final horn sounded to end Keswick Christian’s 51-10 win over Hernando Christian in the Class 2A region finals, Crusaders coach Karrmayne King stood back as her team celebrated on the court. Part of the reason was because she tore the meniscus in her right knee on Sunday while doing some work at the school. But mainly it’s because King is more comfortable out of the spotlight.
Eventually the mob made its way to the bench, where King was swallowed up in a giant team hug. Not only did Keswick Christian advance to the state semifinals for the first time since 2000, Friday’s win was also the 600th win in King’s 31 years as the school’s girls basketball coach.
“It’s been surreal," said King, also the school’s athletic director.
It has certainly been a notable year for King. In September she notched her 500th win as the volleyball coach. She resigned at the end of the season to focus only on basketball. She finished with 509 wins as volleyball coach. Combined she has won 1,109 games and counting in her tenure at Keswick.
“She does so much and it’s always in the background," said Northeast’s Will White, who started coaching girls basketball in 2004 at Boca Ciega and has known King ever since. “She never asks for credit. Those are just special people. She does things for all the right reasons. She does it for the kids. She’s exactly what coaching should be."
King has been part of a particularly good run the past five years. Since getting her 500th basketball win in December 2015, the Crusaders have gone 100-25 in the stretch to her 600th win.
Friday’s lopsided win over Hernando Christian was never in doubt. The Crusaders (29-1) had a 17-2 lead after one quarter. The win erases the memory of a one-point loss to Orlando Christian Prep in last year’s region final.
Sophomore guard Sydney Jackwin, who also plays on the volleyball team, said there was no way the players were going to make King wait until next season to get win No. 600.
“She deserves it because of all the work she does behind the scenes," Jackwin said. “She is not only an amazing coach, she also helps us at school. She teaches a class. She doesn’t care about the number, she cares about who was with her along the way. But we were going to make sure she got this win. She doesn’t like all the recognition, but she deserves it for all she does."
Another interesting twist to the game was the fact that it was moved from 7 to 5 p.m. That’s because senior center Yasmin Baroni is a Seventh Day Adventist and does not do any physical exertion or make others work for her from sundown on Fridays to sundown on Saturdays.
The Crusaders did not play any Friday games during the regular season. Hernando Christian coach Mike Drummond agreed to move the start time, although he was not obligated to do so.
“I thought about it for a second on the way down here," Drummond said. “I guess I could’ve taken one of their players out of the game, but you want to beat a team at full strength. Then you can say you really accomplished something.
“I totally understand. And to be honest, it probably wouldn’t have made a difference."
Baroni was thankful she could be a part of the historic win.
“It could’ve been that I couldn’t have played and maybe that would’ve affected my team," said Baroni, who scored 10 points. “But God worked it all out. I was able to be here."
Keswick Christian will face Florida A&M in the state semifinal Wednesday at noon in Lakeland. Hernando Christian ends its season 25-2.
As the starters exited the game one-by-one in the fourth quarter, King handed them T-shirts that read “Lady Crusaders. Mission Accomplished" on the front and “District Champs. Regional Champs. State Final 4″ on the back.
There was also a banner with the players' names on it. It may have been a risk if the Crusaders lost, but King took the chance.
“Worst-case scenario, I’m out a couple hundred bucks," she said. “Figured I could send them off to wherever the losing Super Bowl team sends their shirts.
“It’s been their mission from the time we lost last year. All the work they put in during the offseason, this is what it’s for."
While the Crusaders have never won a state championship, they at least have a shot this season. Those who have coached against King will be rooting for her.
“What she’s been able to do is awesome," said Dixie Hollins coach Kelley Jones, who completed her 16th season and also spent nine seasons at St. Petersburg Christian. “Just to be able to have that longevity and build a program to get to this point is pretty awesome."
Baroni put it another way.
“It’s kind of mind-boggling," she said.