It’s a great time to be an alumnus of Largo High School once again.
The boys basketball team has made an improbable run through the FHSAA state playoffs, and wound up playing at the Final Four in the Class 6A level at the Lakeland Center this weekend. Making this feat more special is that LHS hasn’t played a home game the past two seasons due to major renovations at the school that will be completed later this year. They’ve played their “home games” at a few schools, mainly at nearby Seminole High.
Dating back to when the school officially opened in 1914, Largo’s had a lot of accomplishments over the years. The school has had a cross country team over the years that has won numerous team state and individual titles for legendary coach Brent Haley, including a national championship back in 1983. It’s also won to state champion wrestlers, weightlifters, swimmers, divers, track stars, and a 1978 world championship band known as the “Band of Gold.”
When I had heard last week that Largo had made the state semifinals in boys hoops this year, I did some research thru the FHSAA website. In strictly head-to-head team sports, where it’s always one team playing another, the 2015-16 boys hoops team marked the 10th time Largo High had made the state semifinal in any such sport. The previous nine attempts at a state title didn’t go so well. They had gone 0-9 at the semifinal level, beginning with three straight trips in boys hoops from 1956-58, going all the way to two straight trips to the state football semis in 2007-08.
Much like in the movie Hoosiers, a team unfazed by playing every game on the road would logically be unfazed by the bigger environment of a state championship playoff. On February 26th, the Packers met a red-hot 32-3 Pensacola High squad in the 6A state semifinals, with the winner playing in the final the following afternoon. In a game that was close for all of the 32 minutes it went, it was Largo who broke through their historical barrier and scored a close 56-54 win. They drew the Dillard High Panthers out of Ft. Lauderdale, winners of five state basketball titles in their history, to decide the state championship.
Having broken one historical barrier, could they break another?
Against the powerhouse squad from Ft. Lauderdale, the Packers held their own in the first half, leading 16-12 after a quarter and only trailed 26-24 at the half. The third quarter was a different story, as a flurry of points went Dillard’s way as they dominated the boards on both ends. By the time Largo realized what hit them, it was too late, as Dillard won another state title by the score of 66-55.
While the clock finally struck twelve on the Cinderella Packers, their run in the 2015-16 season was still a piece of local history. Hundreds of teams and players across the state took the court, but very few of them did what Largo accomplished this year. I’m still proud to be a Largo Packer. Always will be. Where you are from is something that doesn’t change and stays a part of you the rest of your life.
I wouldn’t want it any other way.