By Jeff Odom
Academy at the Lakes shooting guard Tony Arrington was hungry before his team’s matchup at Bishop McLaughlin Jan. 4.
Much to the chagrin of academy coach Tom Haslam, Arrington stopped by the concession stand for a bag of chips and a chocolate bar minutes before tipoff.
It might be a ritual the 5-foot-10 senior guard continues after scoring a season-high 15 points to help the Wildcats (8-6) roll past the Hurricanes (5-8) 72-36.
“Arrington had a bag of chips about five minutes before game time, and I actually got on to him,” Tom said. “He said he was starving, so he ate the chips and kind of snuck it by me. … Maybe it spurred him on, and we’ll have to give him a bag of chips every night.”
The academy didn’t flinch after leading-scorer Ethan Haslam (16 points) was forced to the bench with foul trouble in the first quarter as four different players scored baskets to pick up the slack.
Sophomore forward Mikey Mauger, who finished with eight points, said staying ahead, in spite of adversity, showed the team’s potential.
“It’s a good sign that we can do as good without (Ethan) as we do with him,” Mauger said. “The last few days we haven’t been able to practice or get in the gym much, but everybody really had great energy coming off the bench, and our starters did too.”
The Wildcats finished the first half on a 16-2 run and outscored Bishop McLaughlin 19-4.
“We got in some early foul trouble in the first (quarter), and we didn’t move our feet good,” Tom said. “Once the second started we kind of got back in the groove, and I thought we did much better finishing the fast break and getting open shots.”
The Hurricanes came out of the break on a torrid pace with an 8-2 run led by Will Potosky (14 points).
But too many missed inside baskets and a rough night at the foul line (4-of-10) doomed Bishop McLaughlin and opened the door for academy’s offense to pour it on in the fourth.
The Wildcats were stagnant early, but a late shot by forward Evan Gordy (eight points) with 3:03 to go and a 3-pointer from Arrington helped the academy finish the game with a 12-0 run on a running clock.
“It was all about my teammates helping out, getting involved,” Arrington said. “We’ve been working on having better second halves and opening the first half was way better, so that’s been the focus of the last couple of games, and that’s what we’ve done.”
The Wildcats travel to Tampa Bay Christian Jan. 11 and the Hurricanes host Seffner Christian Jan. 8. Both games start at 7:30 p.m.