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Wednesday, Apr 16, 2014
Preps

Stellar Academy season has sudden stop


Published:

LAKELAND — The Academy at the Lakes girls basketball team lost most of last season’s state Final Four team to graduation, but were still able to find a way to return to the Class 2A semifinals.

However, Tuesday in the state semifinals at The Lakeland Center against Sarasota Christian, youth caught up to the Wildcats in the third quarter in a 68-59 defeat.

The Fighting Blazers held the Wildcats, who have seven players in either seventh, eighth or ninth grades, to just six points in the third period.

“(Sarasota Christian) is a very solid team,” Academy at the Lakes coach Karim Nohra said. “I thought that if we could’ve got them into a running game that we could win the game. They slowed us down to the point that we had to run a half-court offense. That has not been our style all year.”

Eighth-grader Taylor Polasky (11 points) took charge late in the opening quarter and hit a couple long-range jumpers to keep the Wildcats within striking distance. A buzzer-beating 3-pointer from guard Lauren Wells gave AATL a 16-15 lead after one period.

However, Academy at the Lakes turned the ball over 23 times compared to just 12 for Sarasota Christian.

By halftime, Sarasota Christian (23-7) led 33-29. But a near dominant third quarter performance by the Fighting Blazers put the game away.

Academy at the Lakes played catchup the entire fourth quarter and came as close as 62-57 with less than 2 minutes to go, but could get no closer. Sarasota Christian made 22 of 28 free throws, including 11 of 12 by McKenzie Lantz (21 points, six rebounds). Wildcats center Imani Thomas led all scorers with a game-high 24 points and added 11 rebounds.

“I told them get used to this, because we’re coming back, baby,” Nohra said about his youthful bunch making return trips to the Final Four. “We’ll make some more trips back to the state tournament. Hopefully, we’ll get Sarasota again.”

SARASOTA CHRISTIAN (68) — Lantz 5 11-12 21, C. Miller 8 0-2 17, Garriott 3 5-6 12, H. Miller 1 5-6 8, Wittmer 3 1-2 8, A. Miller 1 0-0 2. Totals—21 22-28 68.

ACADEMY AT THE LAKES (59) — Thomas 11 2-4 24, Polasky 4 3-3 11, Leipold 4 0-0 8, Santiago 3 0-0 8, Cassanello 2 1-2 5, Wells 1 0-2 3. Totals—25 6-11 59.

Sarasota Christian 15 18 14 21 — 68

Academy at the Lakes 16 13 6 24 — 59

Records—S 23-7, A 22-6.

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