AVON PARK - After barely beating McKeel Academy a month ago, the Avon Park boys basketball team placed four players in double figures to blow out the Wildcats by a score of 72-35 on Tuesday night.
The Class 4A-District 9 win improved the Red Devils to 13-5 overall and more importantly, 6-1 and first place in district play.
"This was our best game of the season," said Avon Park boys basketball coach Marty O'Hora. "Our attitudes have improved, we pushed the ball on offense and it looked like we were having some fun out there.
"This was a good win because it keeps us in first place in the district but we've got to keep playing hard and stay focused because we've got some big games coming up."
The first quarter was tight as Avon Park senior guard Alfred Brown scored four of his 13 points and Gus Owens added four, but McKeel Academy's Elijah Campbell answered with eight of his team-high 19 points to tie the score at 10 heading to the second period.
The Red Devils began to find the range as John Mason poured in eight of his game-high 20 points and Tyrone Perry scored six of his 10 points as Avon Park went on a 13-0 run in the last three minutes to take a commanding 35-24 lead into the half.
"We moved the ball real well and showed good patience on offense," O'Hora said. "We attacked the basket, didn't settle for jump shots and made some free throws.
"We have a lot of talent, it's just a matter of us being unselfish and playing as a team."
Campbell did his best to pull McKeel Academy (9-3, 4-2) closer in the third quarter by scoring six points and AJ Trent added four of his eight points, but Avon Park's Mason shook loose for seven and Recarus Burley added three of his 10 points as the Red Devils took a 54-35 lead into the final eight minutes.
Avon Park showed good patience on each possession by using a lot of time and working for a good shot.
Mason continued to dominate the inside by scoring five points and Burley added four points as the Red Devils pulled away for the decisive victory over the Wildcats.
"I'm real pleased with our defensive effort the last three games," O'Hora said. "We aren't giving up many points and that will keep us in any game even if we're struggling on offense."
Avon Park is on the road on Friday night for a key district game against Frostproof, which knocked off the Red Devils earlier this season.
"We lost to Frostproof on our home floor in what was probably our most selfish game of the season," O'Hora said. "We've come a long way as a team since then and we need to pay them back.
"A win over Frostproof would be big, but a loss would give them a season sweep over us and there would be a three-way tie for first place in the district."
Avon Park is home on Jan. 16 against DeSoto and the Red Devils host Lake Region on Jan. 20.
If Avon Park, which is the defending district champion, finishes first in the district, the Red Devils would be able play a home game in the district tournament.
"There's a real incentive to finish first in the regular season," O'Hora said. "That's something new and to be able to play on our home floor in the playoffs would be a big advantage."