26 Feb 2024


The Sunshine Independent Athletic Association (SIAA) held its state championships in various divisions this past weekend at the Genesis Orlando Sportsplex, the homecourt of host school Southeastern Prep.  Our first set of games before the National Division State Championship featured a pair of teams from Bradenton IMG Academy and two independent schools out of Central Florida.

SEMI-FINAL #1: IMG Academy Blue vs. IMG Academy Gold

IMG fields a multitude of teams and these two are considered just a notch below the National team which plays in the EYBL Scholastic.  There really is no difference in the talent level.  This and the fact that the programs are under the same umbrella made for a more intense than usual affair.

After a bit of a slow start from both teams, it as Blue that as the first to gain the upper-hand in the first quarter.  With just under three minutes to play, they were up 16-11.  However, things happen quickly in the SIAA thanks to the use of a thirty-second shot clock.  Timo George, a 6’7 senior, got on a roll on the inside, leading Gold on a 9-2 run to end the quarter up by two, 20-18.

In a quick reversal of events, Blue ran off ten unanswered points to go up 28-20 with five minutes left in the second quarter, forcing a Gold timeout.  Gold responded, going on a 12-4 run to end the quarter.  At the half, the game as all tied up at 32-32.

Blue once again jumped on top at the start of the third quarter.  Gold kept pace though was never able to mount a run and draw even or take the lead as it had done in the first and second quarters.  With one period left to play, Blue held a tenuous three-point lead, 50-47.

Blue got an early bucket inside to start the fourth quarter but at that point, the Gold defense ticked up a notch or two and Blue only scored one more basket, a three-pointer the rest of the quarter.  Gold seized this opportunity to make a run.  They finally grabbed a lead, 53-52, with three minutes left to play, and never gave it up.  Blue would be forced to launch threes and foul as time wound down to get back into the game, but it was to no avail.  Gold headed into Sunday’s final by the score of 61-55.

George led Gold with 17 points while Cameron Mercadel, a 6’1 senior added 12 points.

For IMG Blue, Jorge Cardenas, a 5’11 senior, dropped in 18 points while Fumani Sithole’, a 6’4 senior, added 16 points.

SEMI-FINAL #2: Orlando Southeastern Prep vs. Kissimmee Bi-Lingual Christian Academy & Tech (BCAT)

Both teams are young and lack great size, so this game was much more up-tempo than the IMG battle.  Both teams set a fast pace and neither relied on the three to get their points as each team hit just two the entire first period.  After one quarter of play, SE Prep was up a single point, 16-15.

In the second quarter, SE Prep got rolling at both ends of the floor.  Midway thru period, they led just 26-22.  In the span of a minute, they reeled off an 8-2 run to go up ten, 34-24, forcing a BCAT timeout.  The break in the action didn’t work as hoped and at the half, Southeastern Prep led 41-29.

BCAT owned the first half of the third quarter and with four minutes left was down just eight at 43-35.  SE Prep didn’t let them get any closer.  They re-established a double-digit lead, 56-46 by the end of the period.

In the fourth quarter, for everything that BCAT threw at SE Prep, the Falcons had an answer.  The closest BCAT would get in the final period was the eight point final margin, 71-63,

Hazzan Effard, a 5’7 sophomore, led SE Prep with 22 points.  Knowah Cousins, a 6’5 junior, added 13 points along with 18 rebounds and Montez Simmons, a 6’4 junior, added 12 points.

For BCAT, Reuben Oliveras, a 6’0 junior, led the way with 21 points.  Adiel Lopez, a 6’6 junior added 19 points and Nayvin Perez, a 6’5 junior, contributed 11 points.

(IMG Gold won Sunday’s Title Game)



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.