It may be their 28th game this season, but for the South Walton Seahawk seniors, it's like their season begins Tuesday when they take the floor in the Regional Semifinals of the Florida High School Athletic Association Girls Class 1A Basketball Championships. The Seahawks, 21-6, will host Cottondale in a 7 p.m. game Feb. 12.
"I think we are starting our season now," said point guard Morgan Kennedy.
"Districts wasn't that huge of a victory," said Eve Heffron. "It was more of a stepping stone to get to where we want to be. It was more about keeping our focus."
The Seahawks dominated on the court last week when they blasted the Port St. Joe Sharks 54-19 in the championship game of the District 4 1-A Girls Basketball Tournament.
With the win, the girls advance to the state playoffs and earn a chance for a little payback.
"This is a chance for us to exorcise a demon that's been in our past," said South Walton Coach Kevin Craig. Three years ago, the Cottondale Hornets beat the Seahawks and knocked them out of a chance of advancing in the state playoffs.
"They had a good team and they took it to us," Craig said. "We were 15-0 in the district that year ... and we didn't go anywhere."
"That's a very motivating factor for those seniors," he said, adding that they were freshmen back then.
Kennedy, Heffron, Tayler Menard and Kati Trejo, who are now senior Seahawks, had been moved up for that playoff game against Cottondale, and most didn't see playing time.
Nevertheless, Craig says, "They're competitors.
"I'd be lying if I said that game didn't bother me, because it does," Craig said. "But this is another year and different kids. So I'm just worried about practicing Wednesday after that game. I'm just hoping we practice Wednesday, otherwise I'll be collecting uniforms."
Although the seniors are ready to take the floor against Cottondale they are a bit apprehensive.
"It definitely makes me nervous, I'm not going to lie," Kennedy said.
"I'm excited to play," Heffron added. "I'm excited to win. I think we're nervous because we don't know anything about them right now."
Cottondale wasn't on the Seahawks schedule this year. However, the Hornets will come into Tuesday's match with a victory over Sneads and a more than 25-point loss to Ponce de Leon.
Craig has said the team he had about three years ago had the potential to go to state.
"He's said that about us," too, Menard said. "So I don't want to relive their footsteps. I want to make a different path."
"I don't want to be the bad example team," Trejo added.
The girls are starting to realize that if they make it past Cottondale and the next opponent, they would be the first team in South Walton High's 10 years of existence to make it to the state tournament.
"It would be kind of cool to do that," Heffron said.
"But we have to play as a team and win as a team," Menard added.
"This is our opportunity ... our season is starting right now," Trejo said. "The opportunity is right in front of us, and it's getting closer and closer."