With his role diminished in the late season, with his high-school career nearing an end, Sickles High School senior Caleb Kamm went to his coach last week with a simple question.
"I'm not ready for this to be over. What do you want from me?''
"Just be ready,'' Gryphons coach Renaldo Garcia said.
Not only was Kamm ready for Saturday night's Class 5A-Region 3 final, he had the game of his basketball life.
Kamm, a former starter who now comes off the bench, scored 11 of his game-high 15 points in the fourth quarter, lifting the Gryphons past the Clearwater Tornadoes 48-46 and giving Sickles the first State Final Four trip in its 13-season history.
Sickles (28-2) will face Niceville (29-3), a 41-38 winner against Gainesville, in Wednesday's Class 5A state semifinals at the Lakeland Center.
"Caleb is a streaky shooter and he made some very, very big shots for us,'' Garcia said. "I thought it was a remarkable effort to beat a veteran team like Clearwater, which has such great tradition. This is big for our school.''
Kamm, a 5-foot-11 senior who hopes to continue basketball at a junior college or prep school, had a trio of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, while also converting a one-and-one situation with 52 seconds remaining, giving Sickles the lead for good, 45-43.
Rashawn Rembert followed with a one-and-one of his own with 18.1 seconds remaining. Clearwater guard Cory Carden made it a one-point game with a 3-pointer. Sickles guard Jordan Davis (14 points) was fouled with 2.3 seconds remaining and made the first of two free-throw attempts.
A desperation game-ending shot by Clearwater's Okaro White, from just beyond mid-court, fell just short.
White, a 6-foot-8 forward bound for Florida State University, was limited to six points (12 below his average) on 2-for-13 shooting. White, who picked up three fouls in the first half, missed his first nine field-goal attempts.
"We've got to have Okaro's 18 points,'' said Clearwater coach Allen Carden said, whose 24-7 team made last season's Class 5A state final. "Even without that, we fought very hard. Sickles just made one more play than we did. They are the best defensive team we have faced.''
Clearwater's loss was difficult to take, especially considering its state tournament success last season. As Sickles players celebrated, Cory Carden hugged his father and wept.
"It's always tough when it ends,'' said Carden, the coach. "But all credit to Sickles. They deserved to win.''
The Gryphons enjoyed their celebration, but also knew that more work is ahead.
"Going out as a senior and going to state, it's like a dream come true,'' Davis said. "This is huge for all of us, everyone associated with our school and everyone who ever played in this program. It puts us on the map. As big as this is, we still hopefully have two more games to win.''
"There was a bunch of crying going on out there,'' Rembert said of the post-game scene, when Sickles students rushed the court and mobbed the Gryphon players. "It's a moment we all dreamed about. Now it has come true. It's just great.''