TAMPA — Oh, how distant last season's 0-15 record seems now.
Under first-year coach Karim Nohra, second-seeded Academy at the Lakes continued its remarkable program turnaround with a 42-31 victory against top-seeded Keswick Christian to claim the Class A-9 district championship Saturday night at Tampa Bay Christian, the school's first in basketball.
"I always expect to have success, wherever I go," Nohra said. "That's the first thing I start drilling into them. Every practice, I remind them when they do something crazy or dumb that that's why they were 0-15 last year."
The Wildcats were led by their pressure defense, which held Keswick Christian star point guard Cassie Foster to just four points, and eighth-grade point guard MarJorie Rivera, who had 16 points despite sitting for nearly half the game because of foul trouble.
Playing with four fouls, she scored 10 points in the second half, including an impressive running jumper that gave the Wildcats a 12-point lead with less than five minutes to play, to help AATL pull away.
"MarJorie was super," Nohra said. "She was absolutely superb handling the basketball and driving when she needed to drive."
The Wildcats never trailed and led 22-16 at the half.
Keswick Christian coach Karr- mayne King said poor shooting plagued her team.
"If you can't put the ball in the basket, you can't win," she said.