The Land O' Lakes girls were asked bring a pillow and blanket with them to practice Thursday, but they were not told what it was for until they got there.
It was for one of the different things Coach Laurie Pacholke has tried this week to get her team ready for its third meeting of the season with Ridgewood in the Class 5A-District 7 semifinals tonight at Land O' Lakes.
Pacholke requested the pillows and blankets not for a nap, but to watch "The Heart of the Game," a movie about a Seattle girls basketball team and its highly unorthodox coach.
"She showed it to us to inspire us," senior Kayli Keough said. "With districts coming we got to see someone else's story and we want that feeling, too."
Motivation should not be in short supply around Land O' Lakes. Ridgewood gave the Gators only their second loss all year on Jan. 18 in the final district regular-season game.
The Rams won by 13 points and gave the Gators the No. 2 seed in the district. Had Land O' Lakes won, the Gators would have had a coin toss with Wesley Chapel to determine the first and second seeds.
"It was just a mess," Keough said. "We didn't pull it together. Everyone wasn't playing well and we beat ourselves. There were things that we could have fixed and we didn't. We know we have to make up for what happened last time. We don't want to go out in the first round."
The Gators have been trying to up the intensity of their practices since the end of the regular season.
On Wednesday, Pacholke said it was their hardest yet and ended with a 3-on-3 with no rules that encouraged the players to go all out.
"It got downright bloody," Pacholke said.
Keough said the Gators have been intent this week on regaining their focus, which is what was lacking against Ridgewood.
"I don't think we were totally focused," Keough said. "We have to be ready to go before the game."
The Ridgewood loss served as a wake-up call for the Gators.
"They have a chip on their shoulders and it might sound bad, but that's what I wanted," Pacholke said. "I think we got complacent. They had won 13 games in a row."
The winner of the Land O' Lakes- Ridgewood game plays the winner of the Wesley Chapel-Central game for the district title Saturday.
Central beat River Ridge in the play-in game Wednesday.