Prep Rally | Southeast, Bayshore girls take different paths in special school year

jlembo@bradenton.comMay 23, 2014 

BRADENTON

Two different teams.

Two different sports.

And two different results from two different rosters with little in common.

When the final spring football game of Friday night comes to a close, the 2013-14 local prep season will officially end with it.

We saw champions crowned in the fall (Lakewood Ranch's boys golfers), winter (Southeast's girls basketball players) and spring (Lakewood Ranch's dynamite track star, Talia Falco), so there was plenty to celebrate from the past nine months.

But the two teams that define prep sports and all its challenges and variables can be found at Southeast and Bayshore.

The aforementioned Seminoles and their starting lineup full of seasoned, tight-knit seniors earned coach John Harder his third state championship nearly 30 years after his first. And Bayshore's softball players nearly matched them, falling just short in a Class 5A state semifinal.

There really is no common thread running through the teams, and that's what makes them -- and a prep sports season -- so special.

Southeast is accustomed to these sort of deep postseason runs; Bayshore never made it to a regional softball final, let alone a final four prior to last spring. Southeast's charge was the byproduct of an experienced roster that went through just about everything over the past four years; Bayshore's charge was guided by youth.

The Seminoles will be a new-look team next winter when they take to the court in Benjamin "Buzz" Narbut Gymnasium and defend their state title; the Bruins will lose a key piece in catcher Kristin Staley, but are expected to bring back everyone else who took the field at Historic Dodgertown earlier this month.

Such is the cycle of prep sports and why the teams that stay near the top need to be appreciated. It's a testament to Harder that a winter without Southeast playing for a district girls hoops championship doesn't seem right.

And it's a challenge the Bruins are about to tackle. Yes, Bayshore will be an experienced and potential-packed bunch next spring, but one that is guaranteed nothing and will need to start from scratch when the 2015 softball season gets underway.

Among their many accomplishments this season, however, was the Bruins' trip to Vero Beach. Aside from the obvious rewards, Bayshore knows what it takes to reach the end of the line and how different everything feels when you get there.

"We're looking to be right back in this same position next year," coach Frank Luther said.

They'll sure have the personnel to try and do so. And come the winter, Southeast will try and get back to Lakeland with a fresh set of names and faces Harder is hoping learned from the crew set to walk across the stage and receive its diploma.

Two different teams. Two different scenarios.

And another special year has come to a close.

John Lembo, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7057. Follow him on Twitter [SoftReturn]@JohnLembo1878.

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