Late Tuesday night, after her team had overcome 29 points and 13 rebounds from the top-ranked player in the state, Coral Springs Charter coach Ericka Haney chatted with reporters while one of her beige pumps rested in her left hand.
My feet are tired, Haney said simply.
The symbolism should not be ignored, however.
Her Panthers (24-7) could be the basketball equivalent to Cinderella, and the shoe might just fit perfectly 4:35 p.m. Thursday when the Panthers face another monumental challenge in Lakeland.
Coral Springs Charter will play Jacksonville Ribault (30-0) one of only two undefeated teams in Florida in the battle for the Class 4A girls basketball state championship.
Last year, the Panthers made it to the state semifinals for the first time in the programs history, losing by two points to Fort Myers Dunbar.
We had a goal in mind since last year, said Haney, who was an assistant on that team. We came here to win a state title.
Now Coral Springs Charter will have to face a Ribault program that has won more girls basketball state titles (eight) than any school in Florida history not that it matters to the Panthers.
After all, the Panthers have already overcome the loss of Aisha Edwards, a 5-6 point guard who was ranked third in the state in the junior class by ESPN. She was dismissed from the team due to disciplinary issues, according to Haney.
On Tuesday, the Panthers showed they can still rise to a challenge, rallying from a six-point fourth-quarter deficit to defeat Fort Orange Atlantic 53-50.
Coral Springs Charter was led by Emily Williams, a 5-5 junior guard who scored 24 points more than twice her seasons average. She made 9 of 18 shots, including a pair of three-pointers, to power the Panthers.
Atlantics Ronni Williams no relation to Emily Williams had a huge second half with 24 points and made 10 of 19 shots overall after missing her first five. She finished with 29.
Ronni Williams, a 6-2 forward and a University of Florida recruit, came in 13th on ESPNs list of the nations top prospects.
Our strategy was to double team her, Coral Springs Charter guard Morgan Smellie said, because one on one was probably going to kill us.
The Panthers, of course, did not die and now have just one more game to win to silence all the doubters who thought their season was over when Edwards was dismissed.
Theres no reason to doubt us, Smellie said of her teams surprising run to the state final. With or without Aisha, we have each other, and thats never going to change.
Panthers guard Jade Wyatt said she never took the skeptics seriously.
In my head, I just had to laugh, she said. Honestly, I know Thursday were going to win.
SOUTH BROWARD 7, FT LAUDERDALE 5
WP: Angie Norris 4K. LP: Pericles.
LATE TUESDAY CYPRESS BAY 7, WESTERN 1
WP: Sarah Maloney 5IP 11K (2-0). LP: Katie Kalasunas (2-1). Top performers: Maddie Gott 1-3, HR. Monika Garabedian 3-3, run. CB 4-0