It was the type of contest that hasn’t happened in recent memory: A top team from the Sunshine Independent Athletic Association (SIAA) taking on a team from the FHSAA that might be one of the top ten to fifteen teams in the state regardless of class. That’s just what happened last night when Florida Prep out of Melbourne used one of its allotted pre-season games to travel to Orlando and take on West Oaks Academy. The homestanding Flames is one of the top (if not the top) teams in the SIAA while Florida Prep is considered and early favorite for the Class 2A title.
The teams are certainly a contrast. Florida Prep came into the contest with superior size on the interior while West Oaks relies heavily on its potent perimeter players. The irresistible force vs. the immovable object. Something had to give.
Midway thru the first period, West Oaks held a 6-3 advantage. A 6-2 run by Florida Prep over the next minute and a half gave them their first lead and forced West Oaks to use its first timeout. From there the lead would switch hands repeatedly until the end of the quarter with the homestanding Flames holding a 14-13 margin.
The second quarter would continue to be a back and forth affair. West Oaks kept its lead until Florida Prep tied the score at 21 just a couple of minutes into the period. At the mid-way point, it was Florida Prep with a one-point lead at 27-26. A 9-5 run by West Oaks gave them a slime three-point margin at 35-32 with one minute to play. That margin would hold up at the half with West Oaks on top 37-34.
The Flames came out on fire to open the third quarter. Midway thru the period, their lead was eight at 49-41 and it looked like they might put the game away. That feeling lasted about thirty seconds after Florida Prep drained a three and then converted a West Oaks turnover into points. West Oaks called a timeout and whatever was said seem to work. They ripped off a 7-1 run to give them their biggest lead of the game at nine, 56-47. Florida Prep would make a dent into that lead by the end of the quarter. With one period left to play, West Oaks was up 58-52.
That lead evaporated in two minutes as Florida Prep opened with a 7-0 run to take a one-point lead. With the score tied at sixty with five minutes to play, it was clear this game was going down to the wire. With 1:30 left to play, Florida Prep had a five-point lead at 67-62. One thought they would hold the ball, milk the clock, and force West Oaks to foul. No. West Oaks turned over Florida prep to get within three. With forty-five seconds remaining, Florida Prep senior guard A.J. Johnson scored on a play near the basket to push their lead back to five. West Oaks replied with a three-point play from junior Tyrell Jones as he was fouled driving to the rim, made the shot, and converted the free throw with twenty-five seconds left. With twenty seconds left, West Oaks fouled. They got lucky as Florida Prep missed the front end of the one-and-one. West Oaks was looking to take the first available good look but Florida Prep’s defense didn’t provide one. A last second floater along the baseline fell short for West Oaks and Florida Prep headed back to the beach with an impressive 69-67 win that didn’t officially count for them.
Florida Prep was led by DeJuan Small’s 27 points. The 5’10 guard is extremely crafty with the ball and it is difficult for the defense to stay in front of him. He also showed a deft touch from the perimeter. Senior teammate A.J. Johnson, also 5’10 also reached double figures with seventeen points. He played primarily off the ball and made the most of his open looks from all three levels.
The Florida Prep “Skyline” of 6’11 senior Lahat Thioune, 6’10 senior Samba Kane, and 6’9 freshman Moussa Douda combined for 19 points, 22 rebounds and 5 blocks. In the second half, West Oaks found it difficult to get good shots at the rim.
For West Oaks, 6’1 junior Tyrell Jones had a solid performance with 21 points. His outside shot was on target this game and he earned several trips to the foul line, making the most of them. Senior 6’0 guard Ben Tal added 12 points for the Flames. He may be the best shooter on the team but he did a good job of controlling the basketball on offense and did his best to get his teammates some open looks. Tyriek Blakeney, another 6’0 senior added 10 points, all in the second half.