It seems like forever and a day since we took in some hoops action from the Sunshine Independent Athletic Association (SIAA). So when the calendar turned to 2023, we were glad to see that Victory Rock was coming to town to take on the Flame of West Oaks.
Far more often than not, SIAA games are back and forth affairs where both teams have their moments where it looks like they could be anybody on any given night. That was not to be this case this time around as West Oaks led 10-4 after the first three minutes of the nine-minute first quarter. When the Flame went on a 10-0 run from there in less than three minutes, Victory Rock finally called a timeout. It helped, but only a little as the score was 22-8 in favor of West Oaks after one period.
The second quarter was even more disastrous for the visitors. An 8-0 run over the first three minutes by West Oaks pushed their advantage to over twenty and by the time halftime came around, it wouldn’t be too soon for Victory Rock as they found themselves down by the score of 43-20.
Usually, this is where the shot clock comes to the aid of the losing team because it allows them the opportunity for more possessions and chances to score. That didn’t help VRP as not only did West Oaks continue to force turnovers with its defensive pressure but the Flame was also burning it up from behind the arc. Their advantage would increase to thirty, 65-35, with one more period to go.
West Oaks has a short but talented bench, so it wasn’t like the Flame could put in lesser players to hold the score down (plus it isn’t their style). To Victory Rock’s credit, they never gave up or showed “bad body language”. They continued to play hard and try to play and perform as they had been coached, but the Flame was too hot on both ends of the court and won going away, 86-45.
Normally, this is the place where we would talk about 6’6 senior Paul Djobet leading West Oaks with 25 points, including his 5-7 from beyond the arc or the 20 points by 6’0 senior Jaylen Smith, or the stat-stuffing game by 6’5 senior Chris Mubiru.
However, we are not going to do that this time around. This time, we want to through flowers the way of the two players that spearheaded the West Oaks defense that caused devastation and that would be 6’0 senior Nazir Griffin and 5’10 sophomore Justin Smith.
Each scored two points respectively the entire contest but their contributions were so much more valuable than points. Griffin and Smith consistently picked up the ball-handler full-court, forced him to turn and go the other direction numerous times, kept digging at the ball as it bounced and forced numerous poor passes. Of the eighteen live ball steals that we counted, it wouldn’t surprise if the vast majority of those were caused by the pressure of Griffin and Smith. Victory Rock Prep simply had no guards that could initiate the offense, let alone beat the pressure and get teammates easy shot opportunities. Griffin and Smith simply made life miserable from the outset for VRP and if any body or bodies deserve Player of the Game accolades, it is those two.
For Victory Rock, we have to give credit to 6’6 senior Bronson Borlace for his efforts, especially when it comes to rebounding the ball at both ends of the court. With 13 points and 9 rebounds, he was the only player who could match the energy and aggressiveness of the West Oaks team.
In two weeks, West Oaks will host Oldsmar Christian in Orlando. Along with The Rock, these teams have been powers in the SIAA since its inception and games between them are along the lines of blue-blood NCAA matchups such as Duke/UNC, Kansas/Kentucky, or Michigan State/Arizona.