MANATEE -- They're smaller than the opposition and weren't expected to make a deep playoff run when the season started due to the club being predominantly made up of freshman and sophomores.
Yet the Southeast Seminoles girls basketball team is on the brink of booking a regional final appearance, just a year after winning the program's fourth state championship and losing a core group of players off that 2014 squad.
But standing in their way is St. Petersburg Lakewood. While the Noles have defeated Lakewood three times this season, the Spartans possess a size advantage -- Southeast's tallest player is 5-foot-8 Mirline Valcin -- and a thirst for revenge when the two teams tip off Tuesday in Bradenton.
Southeast head coach John Harder said he'll need a physically and mentally strong team to defeat Lakewood for a fourth straight time.
"They can't give into the pressure of the situation, let alone the fact that Lakewood is angry and tired and beat up after having lost three," Harder said.
That pressure is amplified by the fact it's an elimination game. The winner treks forward into the Class 5A state playoffs, while the loser heads to the offseason.
Playing each other for the fourth time means there aren't any hidden secrets between the two sides, too.
Lakewood boasts an all-state caliber player in Siyana Allen, who scored 26 points in the Jan. 6 meeting. Southeast won that game 55-54 on Shauntavia Green's free throw with 0.9 seconds remaining. It was a crucial foul shot, because the Seminoles earned the No. 1 seed for the district tournament and have had the luxury of playing at home throughout this postseason.
"Your atmosphere is based on that mental aspect of support," Harder said. "You have more people here than if we crossed the bridge. It's not going to make the difference. I don't believe in that. We've been able to win many games on the road."
Another wrinkle is the rivalry between the two programs. Usually, it's either Southeast or Lakewood that is representing half of the region in a region title game.
That gives Tuesday's contest even more intrigue.
"Bogie will sneak in once in a while. Gibbs will sneak in once in a while, but we've controlled the region for a long, long, long time," said Harder about Lakewood and his team's dominance over the years. "We're in the hunt every year and have been for 30 years. And most of those years, Lakewood's been right there."
Meanwhile, Lakewood Ranch is Manatee County's other representative in Tuesday's regional semifinals.
Competing in Class 7A, the Mustangs were expected to face Sarasota for a fourth time this season.
But the Sailors, ranked No. 1 in the state for 7A, were upset in the regional quarterfinals.
That means Lakewood Ranch, which hadn't defeated Sarasota this season, travels to St. Petersburg Northeast.
Northeast knocked off Sarasota, 32-18, and hosts the game as the team on the bottom line of the bracket.
Lakewood Ranch's biggest weapon is LaDazhia Williams, who hit the 1,000 point milestone with a game-high 22 points in last Thursday's region quarterfinal win against Clearwater Countryside.
The Mustangs will lean on their 6-foot-3 star like they've done all season. The winner gets the winner of Fort Myers and Melbourne. Both of those teams are district champions, and the winner will host Friday's regional final against either Ranch or Northeast.