AVON PARK – The Avon Park Red Devils basketball team nearly lost an early lead to pull away in the fourth quarter to beat the Lakeland Dreadnaughts at home 53-37 to improve their season record to 2-0.

“Definitely not an improvement from the last game,” said Avon Park Head Coach Jeremy Wortinger. “Took us a while to get going.”

The Red Devils started off fairly well taking a 15-7 lead in the first quarter as DeShayla Hawthorne scored six and Tori Hester pumped in five more.

Despite two three pointers by Hawthorne in the second quarter and Hester hitting her second from beyond the arc, Lakeland was able to slice Avon Park’s lead to five points at half as the Red Devils went into the intermission with a tenable 26-21 lead.

Avon Park maintained that five point lead at the end of the third, 36-31 before Lakeland cut further into the Red Devils lead to three points early in the fourth with Avon Park leading 36-33.

With 6:30 left in the game, Hawthorne would spark a 16 point run with a three pointer from the right baseline to put the Red Devils back up by six, 39-33.

Jamiya Houston followed with a bucket and Hawthorne another two points as the Red Devils lead swelled to 43-33.

A pair of free throws by Jatayvia Jackson and a solo by Hester was followed by a basket by Houston as Avon Park’s lead ballooned to 15 points, 48-33 with three minutes left in the game.

Two free throws by Hawthorne and a basket by Jackson finished the run with Avon Park taking a 52-33 lead with two minutes left in the game.

Lakeland made four of six free throws to finally break the Red Devils run as Avon Park won the game 53-37.

“We needed that run,” added Wortinger. “We came out flat, we fought through it, but we finally got it going in the fourth quarter.”

Anayah Elston and Jalia Glover each scored 17 for the Dreadnaughts in a losing cause.

Hawthorne led the Red Devils with a game high 24 points. Hester added nine and Houston scored eight points in the win.

Avon Park traveled to play county rival the Sebring Blue Streaks on Friday night and will host the Lake Wales Highlanders on Monday at 8 p.m.