LAND O’LAKES — It took a little more than two quarters for Keswick Christian to find the key to slowing down Academy at the Lakes. Unfortunately, it was the running clock.
AATL seemingly could not miss in the first quarter, jumping ahead 34-5 in coasting to a 68-36 Class 2A region semifinal victory.
The Wildcats (21-5) will seek a third consecutive trip to the state semis Friday when they travel to Winter Park International.
After a minute it looked like Keswick (21-9) might be able to hang. Then the Wildcats turned on the defensive pressure, causing 17 turnovers in the first quarter. Keswick committed 38 for the game. AATL, meanwhile, hit 15 of its first 18 shots.
“Everybody has the green light to shoot on this team,” coach Karim Nohra said. “No hesitation. If someone has an open shot and doesn’t take it, we ask why they didn’t shoot.”
Audra Leipold did plenty of it in the decisive first quarter. She hit on 6-of-8 attempts while scoring 14 points. After that, like the Wildcats overall, Leipold put things in cruise control and finished with 16. Forward Imani Thomas took over the second-quarter scoring duties with 14 of her game-high 20 points.
Keswick actually outscored AATL in the second quarter and, to its credit, did not let the margin get any higher after the running clock went into effect with 5:15 left in the third quarter at 61-26.
“Once we get to 60 (points for) and 40 (points against) we relax the pressure,” Leipold said. “We had a lot of energy at he beginning of the game.”
AATL seeks its third straight trip to the state semifinals, something Nohra is mildly surprised by.
“We have a lot of young puppies,” he said. “Now the young puppies have to hit the road.”
Each of the past two seasons the Wildcats have taken down a Winter Park-area team by 36 points in the region finals. Keswick had won five in a row, and 12 of its past 14 with only one of those victories coming by fewer than 22 points.
In her final game, senior point guard Bonnie Bouvier had six assists to go with five points and five rebounds. Six-foot junior Madison Span led Keswick with nine points and six rebounds. Another senior, Bekah Baxter, hit a couple of second-half 3s to finish with eight points and Rebecca Kiggins scored seven.