Finding the intensity their coach was seeking, the Mariner Tritons rolled into the championship game of their own tournament.
The Tritons (10-2) doubled up Southwest Florida Christian Academy Saturday night 64-37 to reach Monday's final of the Mariner Christmas Tournament.
Their opponent is Palmetto (11-1), which rolled past Estero 70-46 in the other semifinal, at 7:30 p.m. Monday.
SWFCA (8-6) handed Lehigh its first loss of the season in the Kings' first-round game. That apparently caught the Tritons' attention.
"I think the team is starting to understand a little bit," Tritons coach James Harris said. "That every game we play we have to play against the opponent we're playing, and against ourselves."
The Kings stayed close for a few minutes early in the game, but then Mariner steadily pulled away. The lead was 16 at halftime and 61-29 after three periods. The fourth quarter saw a running clock.
Coach Bill Catto said facing larger schools in this tournament was just what the Kings wanted.
"We were invited and we accepted for that very reason," Catto said. "The challenge. Mariner was a challenge tonight. For the first quarter we broke their press. Then they added a little wrinkle and that's where we had a problem - to figure out the wrinkles that are being added. I told the kids 'Don't worry about the score. Let's work on some things.'
"I even asked coach Harris if he would continue to press us. Normally a good coach would call the press off, but I asked if he would keep the press on so we could work on it."
Kris Carpenter poured in eight three-pointers for the Tritons, good for 24 points.
"He'd kind of been in a funk a little bit," Harris said. "We texted back and forth about it. I asked him if there was anything I could do to help and he said no. He just needed to shoot the basketball."
However, it was Rodney Hunter who led the Tritons in scoring with 25.
Bryce Reed scored 10 points for the Kings.
Monday's opponent in the championship, Palmetto, won its first two tournament games by 19 and 24 points.
"I think when you put together a tournament like this you want to make sure you play three good games," Harris said. "We're looking forward to that game. SWFC presented a challenge tonight.
"Palmetto's obviously long and athletic. They're not going to drive all this way down here to lay down. They're going to play hard and be really aggressive. It's going to be a good matchup."
For Catto, Monday is something to look forward to as well. The Kings take on Estero at 5:45 p.m. in the third-place game.
"We're playing for third place," Catto said. "Third place against 5-, 6-, 7-A schools, and we're 1-A. So we're pleased to be in that position."
SWF Christian 9 12 8 8 - 37?
Mariner 15 22 24 3 - 64
MARINER (64) - Darrett 7, Sillie 2, Carpenter 24, Hunter 25, Deem 4, Taylor 2. Totals: 26 1-1 64. 3PG: Darrett 1, Carpenter 8, Hunter 2.