LAND O’LAKES — One more win and they may have to rename the school Academy at the Lakeland Center.
Malik Hall and Ethan Haslam poured in 23 points each as Academy at the Lakes defeated Bayshore Christian 69-53 Tuesday to advance to the Class 2A region finals.
Earlier Tuesday the AATL girls were playing in their third straight state semifinal in the Lakeland Center. The boys program has never made it to Lakeland and will have to knock off Class 2A giant Orlando Christian Prep on Friday to pull it off.
“OCP is a good college team,” Wildcats coach Tom Haslam said. “They drubbed us two years ago, and I want to know if we’ve gotten any better. There may not be many teams out there better than them.”
If the Wildcats (17-10) put on a 3-point shooting show like they did Tuesday, they will stand a chance. AATL made eight of its first 14 long-range attempts while embarking on a 15-0 run in the second quarter, turning a tie game into a 30-15 Wildcats lead.
To stress how incredible the performance was, the Wildcats did not make any of their four second-half 3-point tries.
Hall made one to end the first quarter and start the second. Then with 6:28 remaining in the half he pulled off a four-point play.
“I learned that move from Reggie Miller. Kick the leg out a little bit,” Hall said.
He scored 13 points in the first half while Haslam had 17, capping it off with a steal and layup at the horn for a 41-23 lead. Off the bench, John David Hannah scored eight first-half points while grabbing three rebounds.
Bayshore (24-4) fought back behind Greg Johnson. He had no points and just two field-goal attempts in the first half, but went 4-for-6 while scoring 10 in the third quarter. His third 3 of the half pulled the Faith Warriors within 53-45 with seven minutes left in the game.
But the Wildcats got baskets from Haslam and Evan Gordy, both on second-chance efforts, to restore the cushion. AATL would lead by as many as 19.
“We were a little tight in the second half but we persevered. And we didn’t turn it over,” Coach Haslam said.
The Wildcats committed only six turnovers all night.
Johnson ended with 16 points for Bayshore, with Josh Humphries adding 13 and Matthew Eckermann 10, all but one in the first quarter. Six-five senior Eric Davis hauled in 15 rebounds.
For the Wildcats, redemption was complete from a 25-point loss at Bayshore early in the season. AATL won the regular-season rematch at home.
“They have a really good crowd over there, lot of energy; we tried to match that over here,” said Ethan Haslam, who had four assists along with Ahkil McGill.
As for Orlando Christian, which beat the Wildcats 78-27 two years ago and has won state titles four of the last six years?
“They have four of five Division I players. But we will be looking for redemption,” he said.