Bartram Trail scratched the surface of its potential a year early.
When the Bears reached the third round of the state playoffs in 2018, they did it with a slew of underclassmen, two seniors and more questions than answers.
In terms of what was a reasonable expectation, last year was a moving target.
It was also the launching point of Bartram’s 2019 season, which continues Friday at 2 p.m. in the Class 8A state semifinals against Tampa Bay Tech (27-3) in the Lakeland Center.
“It’s just the maturity of the players, last year it was a lot of freshmen and they just wanted to get out there and see what happened,” said Bartram coach Jacob Teuscher. “Now, they know how good they are and they want to go and win.”
If there was such a thing as exceeding expectations, 2018 was it.
The Bears (24-6) won their district and reached the third round of the state playoffs before losing to Tallahassee Lincoln, 64-58. This year, the Bears, still very young by varsity high school standards, have experience that affords them quite a different view.
Bartram’s top two scorers, guards Bella Weary and Dana Art, both sophomores, are statistically better across the board than they were last season. Weary was one of the First Coast’s top scorers all season (20.6 ppg), and is already sixth in program history in career scoring (1,030 points). Art has nearly doubled her scoring average (11.1 ppg).
Of note, Bartram’s top six scorers include four sophomores, a junior and a freshman.
“Well, [last season] it definitely caused us to want to get further this year,” Art said. “It was really disappointing last year to lose to Lincoln in the finals. It just kind of motivated us more to get past it and get to state.”
Just getting to the state field for girls basketball programs from St. Johns County remains an accomplishment. Bartram is one of just four teams from the county to ever play for a state championship.
In addition to the Bears, who played for a title in 2012, only Hastings, Nease and Ponte Vedra have played in the final game.
Nease is the only St. Johns team to claim a Florida High School Athletic Association state title, winning in 1999.
“Last year, getting there was great,” Teuscher said of the third round. “This year, they wanted to win the game. Now, we go to the final four and they’re not OK with just making the final four, we want to go down there and win.”