TAMPA — For Armwood coach Jeff Pafunda, the drama is becoming commonplace.
“I’m going to start calling this bunch the heart attack kids,” Pafunda said, “because I think they are determined to give me a heart attack.”
Armwood held off a fourth-quarter Clearwater rally and pulled away late to win 65-57 and reach today’s final of the Buffalo Wild Wings Holiday Classic at Alonso High.
“It’s always good to face different competition we don’t usually see,” said Armwood’s Kieran Smith, who had a game-high 17 points. “It’s an opportunity to see different talent. It’s a blessing really.”
The Hawks, who won the tournament last season, got key contributions from their bench. They were needed because Devante Myles missed most of the fourth quarter with foul trouble before picking up his fifth with 1:41 to play.
“They were absolutely the key,” Pafunda said. “We’ve won all eight games this season by a total of 36 points. Someone just keeps coming up big off the bench every game.”
Thomas Thornley led the reserves with 10 points while Kenny Jones and Jonah Johnson each scored six during the fourth quarter.
“Our bench came up big just like (Thursday’s 53-50 win against Alonso),” Pafunda said. “It’s unbelievable how it keeps happening.”
Ryan Ierna’s tip-in for the Tornadoes cut the Hawks’ lead to 59-57 with 54 seconds to play. But Johnson’s low-post dish to Thornley on Armwood’s next possession extended the lead to four. Clearwater then turned the ball over, and Armwood scored the game’s next four points to close it out.
Javone King and Myles had 10 points apiece for the Hawks while Ierna had 11 and Rasim Avmet 10 for the Tornadoes.
Armwood faces Bloomingdale, a 80-72 winner against Robinson, in today’s final at 5:30 p.m.
The Bulls trailed by one at halftime but pulled away in the second half. They were led by Jake Baer’s game-high 20 points. George Brammeier added 17 for the Bulls while Robinson was paced by Cody Brown’s 19.
Alonso faces Wesley Chapel at 2 p.m. in the fifth-place game followed by Clearwater and Robinson at 3:45.