Twelve years ago, Broderick Day sat loyally beside Herman Valdes on the Bayshore Christian bench and blended into the legendary boys basketball coach’s shadow off the court.
The apprenticeship lasted one season. Then Valdes moved off stage, ending his second stint as coach after the 2009-10 season. Day assumed the leadership mantle of one of the area’s most successful programs — at the recommendation of Valdes.
The new gig came with heavy expectations. Valdes guided the Faith Warriors to five state semifinals and two title game appearances. Two other coaches who succeeded Valdes after his first departure took the program to the final four.
Day figured it was only a matter of time before he got there, too. Then he waited. And waited.
It took 10 seasons, but Day finally will guide Bayshore Christian to high school basketball’s biggest stage with a trip to Lakeland’s RP Funding Center. The Faith Warriors play powerhouse Orlando Christian Prep on Wednesday in a Class 2A semifinal.
“That was a very emotional moment to win (in the region final) and know we are going," Day said. “There were definitely some tears shed on the court. We finally reached our destination."
It was especially gratifying given how many obstacles the Faith Warriors overcame to get there.
Three games into the season, one of Bayshore Christian’s top players, senior guard Jeremiah Wicks, went down with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee. A month later, the team’s tallest member, 6-foot-5 freshman forward Harvey Wilson, left the program.
Without those two, depth was severely thinned. The Faith Warriors spent most of the season with just 10 players. They took their lumps, losing to teams in higher classifications at tournaments.
But they also found some cohesiveness. Senior David Fitzgerald and juniors Deon Brown and CJ Crews took on the bulk of the scoring. The victories started coming, too.
“We really pushed ourselves in practice,” Crews said. “We knew other players had to step up, and they did. Most people didn’t see us making it this far, but we kept pushing. It meant a lot, not only for us, but our coach, too.”
Bayshore Christian has won eight straight heading into the semifinals. The last game was the most thrilling. Trailing nearly the entire game against Naples First Baptist — the top seed in the region — the Faith Warriors dialed up the pressure in the final two minutes, creating much-needed turnovers that turned into points to ignite the rally.
In the waning seconds, Bayshore Christian took the lead for good to win 50-48.
“The thing I love most about this group is they never give up,” Day said.
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The celebration afterward was a family affair. Day’s son, CJ, a former star at the school, is his assistant coach. “It’s pretty special,” the elder Day said.
Family legacies are already a tradition among Bayshore athletics. Valdes’ daughter, Melanie Humenansky, won four state titles as the school’s volleyball coach. She also took over in 2012 as Bayshore’s head of school, a title her father held twice.
“The school is such a part of us,” Valdes said. “Broderick is a part of it, too. He is the athletic director and my daughter leans on him for a lot of things. That’s what we are here — family.”
Valdes still attends the bigger boys basketball games. But he will not be there for the program’s biggest one in more than a decade. He is going to Israel this week with his wife and three daughters, a trip planned long ago to celebrate his 80th birthday and 60th wedding anniversary.
So the former coach will do the next best thing. He will watch Bayshore Christian’s state semifinal via livestream.
“It will be about 7 p.m. in Israel when they tip off,” Valdes said. “I wouldn’t miss it. Broderick worked hard to get there. It’s not easy. There are about 100 teams in the state in the classification and to be one of the final four is a great accomplishment.”
State boys basketball semifinals
At RP Funding Center, Lakeland; admission $13, parking $10
2A: Bayshore Christian vs. Orlando Christian Prep, noon Wednesday
4A: Lake Highland Prep vs. Tampa Catholic, noon Thursday
6A: East Lake vs. Bartow, 8 p.m. Thursday