The Sunshine Independent Athletic Association (SIAA) held their state tournament this past weekend in Orlando. In Saturday’s semi-finals, top seed West Oaks Academy held off a serious challenge from the four seed Victory Rock Prep to win 68-62. Central Pointe, the two seed, needed a late surge but got past three seed The Rock School 94-80 to set up Sunday’s title game.
Though West Oaks won the game Saturday, they lost league MVP Selton Miguel to a broken thumb in the contest. The Kansas State signee had his hand in a soft cast and arm in a sling on Sunday, clearly unavailable to play. As if facing a talented Central Pointe team wasn’t difficult enough with Miguel, without him it would be that much harder.
That seemed to hold true at the start of the contest as Ramses Melendez of Central Pointe scored the first seven points of the contest. Jadrian Tracey finally got West Oaks on the board with a putback but two more baskets from Central Pointe made the score 11-2, putting the Flame of West Oaks in a hole.
But not for long.
A pair of offensive rebound dunks, another put-back and a free throw by West Oaks was a 7-0 run to get the back in the contest, making the score 14-12 in favor of Central Point. A possession later, a transition basket attempt by West Oaks drew a foul. It also drew a scuffle between Jonathan Aybar of Central Pointe and A.J. Neal of West Oaks. While no punches were thrown and the chirping and clinching went on a bit longer than usual, it looked like play would resume without issue. Unfortunately, the referees decided that both players should be ejected from the game. If the DQs would have happened in the FHSAA, the players likely stay in the game due to the amount of paperwork the officials would have had to deal with. The DQ of Neal was a much bigger deal as now West Oaks was down another player of importance and now had just six players available for the game.
Back to game action. Melendez ended the West Oaks run with a mid-range jumper but a pair of threes from A.J. Staton wrapped around two free throws from Tracey gave West Oaks a 20-16 lead. That didn’t last long as Luis Rolon of Central Point scored four quick points to tie the game. Stanton and Tracey combined for five points to put West Oaks but on top but Central Pointe put together a 7-0 run as Jonned Walker hit three of four free throws and Ali Dibba added a bucket inside and two free throws of his own. Back came West Oaks as Tracey scored on a drive and Fray Nguimbi hit two free throws. Just before the end of the half, Dibba score inside for Central Pointe. At the break, the score was tied at 29-29.
Just like the first half, Melendez got Central Pointe off to a quick start, scoring three quick points. Staton tied the game up with a three. Dibba then hit one of two free throws and a bucket inside to give Central Pointe a three point advantage. After exchanging baskets for the next couple of possessions, Victor Rosa hit a three to put Central Point up five at 41-36. West Oaks stayed with it and eventually tied the score at 46-46 with a putback basket from Nguimbi. Central Point came back down a got an unlikely three from Jaleel Luall to go up 51-48. Another disaster struck for West Oaks on the ensuing play as Stanton was called for an offensive foul, his fifth of the contest. Now with 7:20 left in the half, West Oaks was down to just five available bodies.
Amazingly, that didn’t faze them. In fact, at that point, West Oaks put together a 9-0 run as Nguimbi scored on the break and Tracey went “one man gang” with a driving score, a three off the dribble and a pair of free throws. West Oaks found itself up 57-51. However, with a thirty second clock used by the SIAA, no lead is safe. On top of that, Tracey was West Oaks only available ball-handler, and now Central Pointe was focused on making him get rid of the ball and challenging his teammates to step up and score.
West Oaks was able to hang on for a while. Dibba scored inside to make it a four point game but Jacquone Gatling of West Oaks hit a mid-range jumper to push it back to a six point margin. Rolon then knocked down a three and after one of two free throws from Gatling, Melendez hit a three and then dunked in transition to give Central Pointe back the lead at 61-60 with just over one minute to play. Tracey got the ball and pushed it down court for West Oaks but disaster then struck for the Flames. He was whistled for an offensive foul, his fifth of the game. Now, West Oaks was down to just four available players, none considered a primary or even secondary ball-handler and/or scorer. On the next possession for Central Pointe, Rosa knocked down a corner three with forty-five seconds to play to make the score 64-60. Kobe Gibbs of West Oaks drew a foul and made a free throw to cut the margin to three with twenty-one seconds left. Now with the shot clock turned off, West Oaks had to foul. Walker hit two free throws to make it a five point game. Ngumibi somehow got loose for a transition basket and give West Oaks the faintest glimmer of hope if the they could get a steal and knock down a three. However, Melendez got loose for a dunk with just a few seconds left to start the celebration for Central Pointe as the White Tigers win by the score of 68-63.
Melindez was named Player of the Game for his 20 point effort. Dibba scored 18 points while Rosa added 12 points.
For West Oaks, Staton had a game-high 23 points while Tracey finished with 19 and Nguimi tallied 12 points.
In-between Friday’s semi-final games, the All-SIAA teams were announced:
Selton Miguel, West Oaks (MVP)
Jaylen Speer, The Rock School
A.J. Staton, West Oaks
Mahoum Mahoum, Potter’s House
Luis Rolon, Central Point Christian
Kevin Miller, Victory Rock
Jadrian Tracey, West Oaks
Kyle Duke, The Rock School
Mahamdou Mbow, Victory Rock
Ramses Melendez, Central Point Christian
COACH OF THE YEAR: Kenny Gillion, West Oaks
SIAA Ambassador: A.J. Neal, West Oaks