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," 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 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.
6A: Buzzer beater ends Mitchell's run
RUSKIN — Robert Gant picked a dramatic time for his only basket of the game, hitting a 3-point buzzer-beater in Lennard's 54-51 Class 6A region quarterfinal win over Mitchell on Thursday night.
Coach Danny Gaddis actually set up a play for Caelen Watts, who scored a game-high 15 points. But Mitchell's trap forced Watts to dish the ball off to Gant, who just got his shot from the top of the arc off in time.
It has been a record-breaking season for Lennard. The Longhorns (23-4) followed up their first district championship by winning their first playoff game.
Mitchell (22-6) raced out to a 22-14 lead in the first quarter, capitalizing on its fast break and a handful of steals, and led 27-21 at the half.
Lennard scored 12 in the third quarter, matching its offensive output of the entire first half. The Longhorns closed out the quarter with a 6-0 run that brought them from a three-point deficit to a 42-39 lead.
After Mitchell's Lawrence Watt completed a three-point play for a 39-36 lead, Lennard's Watts made back-to-back layups, the second coming off a steal, to put his team ahead.
The game was then tied at 46, 48 and 51. Mitchell's Bernie Conley made a driving layup for a tie at 51 with 1:01 left in the game before Lennard held the ball and let the clock wind down for Gant's dramatic shot at the end.
Brian Powers scored 12 for Mitchell, while Sean Thompson had 11 and Watt 10.
Steve Lee, Times correspondent