We headed to Leesburg Tuesday night to check out Rockledge take on the top-ranked Leesburg Yellow Jackets in a regional semi-final. Good thing we got there early because the gym filled up in a hurry and it was standing room only by the time the national anthem concluded.
To the Leesburg Faithful’s delight, the defending state champs jumped out to a quick 5-0 start thanks to a three from Lance Erving and a mid-range “j” from Cordrayius Graham. A pair of free throws from Zay Stevens finally got Rockledge on the board to make it 5-2. A few minutes later, Rockledge tied the score at eight after a baseline floater from Stevens, then disaster struck. Rockledge’s catalyst, Elijah Weaver, picked up his second foul near the four minute mark and headed to the bench. While the Rockledge defense stayed relatively solid, it was very tough for them to generate offense against Leesburg. The Yellow Jackets took advantage and outscored Rockledge 8-3 the rest of the period to lead 16-11.
Weaver started the second quarter for Rockledge and immediately buried a long jumper to get back to within three. Excited over his quick bucket, he reached in to try to get a steal on Leesburg’s next possession and was whistled for a foul. Back on the bench, Leesburg exploited the situation the rest of the quarter. They outscored Rockledge 18-5, building a 34-18 halftime lead.
Weaver’s presence helped Rockledge stay with Leesburg for the majority of the third quarter. However, that wasn’t going to allow Rockledge back into the contest. At one point, Rockledge got to within fourteen at 43-29, but Leesburg finished off the third quarter with an 8-2 run, highlighted by a Keon Ellis tip-slam just before the horn sounded to end the period. The excited crowd darn near blew the roof off in excitement as the Yellow Jackets now had a twenty point lead at 51-31.
The final period was pretty much anticlimactic as Rockledge tried to extend pressure defensively, which Leesburg dismantled fairly easily. Rockledge was then forced to foul to stop the clock and Leesburg was able to extend their lead at the free throw line. The host Yellow Jackets advanced to Friday’s final and a trip to Fort Lauderdale Stranahan by the score of 82-57.
Ellis led Leesburg with 24 points, 18 of which came in the second half. Erving provided 15 points while both Jyre McCloud and DeShawn Benton added 10 points each.
Despite his limited minutes, Weaver led Rockledge with 21 points, 17 of which came after half-time. Stevens finished with 18 points.