For the No. 14 Lake Clifton boys basketball team, the ride has been bumpy at times this season.
In his 19 years at the helm, coach Herman "Tree" Harried has had bigger teams, more experienced teams and more talented teams in claiming four state crowns and becoming a perennial state power.
But the 2015-16 Lakers, who started as a raw mix of seniors, juniors and sophomores, have come together and proven to be as resilient as any.
After an uncharacteristically uneven 12-10 regular season, the Lakers grinded their way out of the South region with four wins to make a return trip to the state tournament. There's only one starter -- senior guard Kai Thompson -- back from last year's team that fell to New Town in the Class 1A championship game.
"Some trips are easier than others and this one wasn't easy at all. There was nothing easy leading up to it and I'm just happy for these guys that they have weathered the storm. They put their work in -- they really have," Harried said.
The Lakers (16-10) will open against Prince George's County-based Surrattsville in Friday's semifinal round, set for 3 p.m. at Maryland's Xfinity Center. While Thompson was the only current Laker to log minutes in last year's state tournament, a couple others got a close-up perspective of the experience from the bench.
Thompson and fellow senior guard Shauntaze Drake, along with sophomore newcomer Rasheed Brown all average in double figures.