EAST LAKE — It was hard for East Lake coach Joe Bloznalis not to worry about complacency taking hold with his players in the days leading up to Tuesday’s Class 8A, District 8 semifinal against Palm Harbor University.
All week, the Eagles were concentrating on a road game against North Port. Things changed this past weekend when the Florida High School Athletic Association ruled that top seed Sarasota Riverview had to forfeit all games in the first semester for having an ineligible player and was dropped to fourth.
East Lake moved up to No. 2 and hosted the No. 3 seed Hurricanes.
The Eagles, who had swept the two-game series against PHU in the regular season, cruised in a 69-42 victory. East Lake, which secured its second playoff berth in three seasons, advances to Friday’s final and will play the Riverview-North Port winner.
“I was worried about my guys possibly looking ahead to playing North Port or Riverview in the final,” Bloznalis said. “We beat PHU twice in the regular season and had trouble with the other two teams. But we have a lot of seniors on this team and they knew what was at stake and stayed focused.”
It didn’t take long for the Eagles to take command. In the first quarter, East Lake jumped out to an 18-9 lead and went into halftime ahead 39-16.
“We wanted to get out to a big lead and not give PHU a reason to hang around in the game,” Bloznalis said. “We got up big by the half and I told the guys we needed to close the deal in the third quarter.”
Though the Eagles were outscored 9-8 in the third quarter, it wasn’t enough for the Hurricanes to sustain a significant rally.
East Lake had 10 players score, two of whom reached double figures, Balazs Orzo (12 points) and Blake Grimm (11).