It will be exactly one year to the day when the two teams met on the court at Alabama State in a game that ended in a brawl. The result was both teams being suspended from the postseason and tournament play for a year. With the ban lifted in January, both teams are now ranked in the Top 10. Florence says it's a game he's been waiting on and hoping for all year long.
"It means a lot to me and this whole team," Florence tells Inside The Auburn Tigers. "With the big brawl and everything that happened last year with Carver I think this year shows a side of us that last year was just a one-time thing. That's not how we carry ourselves every day out in public. We're nice guys and we wanted the chance to play them again. I heard they won so we'll see them in Montgomery. We just want to show the world it was a one-time thing and we don't behave like that."
Erique Florence drives up the court during Saturday's win.
Now both through to Montgomery and the regional round, Valley (20-3) and Carver (20-1) are prepared to slay the demons that have haunted them for a full year. Florence says playing this game again this year is exactly what both schools need to put everything behind them. Florence says being able to win and move on to the Final Four would put the icing on a very tough year for the Rams.
"We've got to learn that when things don't go well in life you can't hold a grudge against everybody," Florence says. "If you do that life wouldn't be right. You've just got to let it go and move on.
"Being able to get to Birmingham would be awesome," he adds. "Being kicked out of the tournament last year because of the fight and then turn around and win a state championship or even advance to the Final Four, that would say a lot about our character and what we believe in at Valley High School."
Basketball isn't the only thing going on for Florence at the moment as he's also dealing with football recruiting heating up in a big way. The 6-2, 185 Florence is rated as a four-star cornerback by Scout.com and is already receiving offers from across the country. He says that has made things a little crazy at times this winter, but he's taking it all in stride.
"It wears me down some," Florence says. "I played football and then straight into basketball season. You have phone calls every night while I'm trying to study. I still have to come to practice. It wears on you some, but if I could go back and start over I would do it the same way. Some people wish for this opportunity so I'm going to live it day by day."
With so many choices of where he could play on the next level, Florence says that right now he's focused on playing basketball, enjoying the ride, and trying to find the right fit for him in college.
"I know for a fact that I'm going to wait until next year to make my decision," Florence says. "I'm going to start showing a little more interest and start finding out more and more on certain schools. I'm going to cut it down some so at the end I'll know exactly where I want to go and won't have to make a split-second decision."