LAND O’LAKES — Less than a week after clinching the first district title in program history, Ethan Haslam and Malik Hall made sure there wouldn’t be a letdown for Academy at the Lakes in Thursday night’s Class 2A region quarterfinal.
The guards combined for eight 3-pointers — including five in the first quarter — to help the Wildcats cruise past Canterbury 74-46 and clinch a spot in the semifinals, where they will host Bayshore Christian.
“This is huge,” said Haslam, who finished with 22 points and six rebounds. “It’s something we’ve been working for and something this whole school has been waiting for.”
AATL (16-10) never trailed after the opening minute and used a 14-5 run midway through the first quarter to take a 10-point lead.
The Wildcat defense was also in total control during the first eight minutes, forcing the Crusaders (13-11) to turn the ball over seven times.
“We switched from a 2-3 zone to man-to-man, which gave us a body on a body,” AATL coach Tom Haslam said. “After that, we just started shutting them down.”
The second quarter was no different as the Wildcats broke it open with a late 10-2 run, which included a long 3-pointer by Ethan Haslam at the buzzer to extend their lead to 21 at the half.
Hall (27 points) added two more from beyond the arc in the third and Evan Gordy (12) hit a pair of free throws to give AATL its largest lead of the night (28) before Tom Haslam pulled his starters in the fourth.
“It’s hard to tell these kids not to shoot, because the last thing I want is my voice inside their head,” Tom Haslam said. “I want them to have free reign, and when we shoot like we did tonight, we’re pretty good.”
Darin Kilfoyle added 10 rebounds for the Wildcats. Canterbury’s Kyle Shealy finished with a team-high 24 points.