LAND O’LAKES — Academy at the Lakes coach Karim Nohra gave his players an ultimatum before their Class 2A region quarterfinal against Hernando Christian on Thursday night:
Play up to their utmost potential or he would leave and make them coach themselves.
Needless to say, Nohra kept his place on the bench the entire night. HCA proved to be nothing more than a speed bump for the Wildcats in a 72-18 rout to set up a semifinal with Keswick Christian on Tuesday at 7 p.m
“I told them from the get-go, from the first day we started practicing for Hernando (Christian), that you’re going to win,” Nohra said. “But I wanted things done the right way. I want things done how I taught you to do them and if you don’t, I told them I would walk out on them.”
AATL (20-5) took that threat and turned it into a near-flawless performance by putting the game out of reach within the first six minutes with a 24-0 run.
The second quarter wasn’t any kinder to the Lions (10-16) as freshman Imani Thomas (22 points) and eighth-grader Audra Leipold (16) helped the Wildcats outscore HCA 21-7 to take a 43-point lead at the half.
“We had to get it through our heads that we’ve got to work hard,” Thomas said. “We had to beat them. We had to go and get it done. …We didn’t want him to walk off, so we had to play as hard as we could and he stayed.”
With a running clock throughout the second half, Nohra pulled his starters and used the opportunity to get his bench some extra work.
Eighth-grader Taylor Polasky added 17 points for AATL, including three from 3-point range. HCA’s Amelia Jackson finished with six.