The state championship game of the National Division in the Sunshine Independent Athletic Association (SIAA) took place Sunday afternoon at DME Academy in Daytona Beach. Orlando West Oaks Academy, the #2 seed swept into the finals but the other side of the bracket was a bit of a surprise. Central Pointe Christian Academy out of Kissimmee upset the top-seed, DME Academy to reach the title game. The two Central Florida programs have developed quite the rivalry over the last half-decade or so and the contest brought out fans from both schools.
Central Pointe jumped out quickly to an 8-0 lead as 6’0 senior Carlos Cortijo hit a mid-range jumper, 6’3 junior Eric Mejias scored on the break, 6’7 senior Vuk Vukcevic drained a perimeter “j” and 6’9 senior Raphael Dupouy scored. West Oaks finally called timeout with 6:32 left in the nine-minute quarter to regroup. And regroup they did, going on an 8-0 run to tie the game 8-8 at the 4:21 mark of the quarter as 6’5 senior Chris Mubiru hit a three, and 5’10 senior Jayden Smith hit a shot from mid-range and then drilled a three. West Oaks wasn’t done. After a free throw from Central Pointe gave them a one-point advantage, West Oaks continued its run. Paul Djobet, a 6’7 senior, scored on a drive, 6’2 senior Prophete Fields completed a three-point play, and then Smith struck again with another five points. Now it was Central Pointe’s turn to take a time out, now down 18-9 with 1:21 left in the period. The White Tigers got back on track, finishing with the final four points of the quarter to trail just 18-13.
The second quarter didn’t have the “drama” of the first as the Flame of West Oaks seemed to have an answer for every challenge Central Pointe would offer. West Oaks was up 24-18 midway through the period and up eight, 28-20, when the Flame took a time-out with 2:21 left in the quarter. However, it didn’t have its desired effect as Central Pointe close out the half with a dunk inside by 6’8 senior Gora Niang and two free throws after a steal by Mejias to make the score 28-24 in favor of West Oaks at the break.
West Oaks looked like it would take control of the contest early in the third period. A three-point play by Mubiru on a putback gave the Flame a nine-point, 35-26 advantage. Central Point wasn’t fazed. Mejias struck with a three. After a put back by Djobet of West Oaks, Cortijo scored on a drive. West Oaks got hit with a tech and Mejias made one of two. On the next White Tiger possession, Vukcevic drained a three to get within 37-35 with four minutes left in the quarter. Central Pointe continued its run as 6’8 sophomore Maodo Niang had a steal and score to tie the game, then both Vukcevic and Cortijo hit threes to give Central Pointe a 43-37 lead. Both teams closed out the quarter with one free throw apiece. Overall, Central Pointe outscored West Oaks 20-10 in the third to take a 44-38 lead into the final quarter of play.
It looked like Central Pointe might put the game out of reach with a 7-2 run in less than two minutes at the start of the fourth to build an eleven-point 51-40 advantage. Over the next three minutes, West Oaks would trim that margin to five at 56-51. With 3:22 to play, Smith of West Oaks connected on a pair of free throws to make the score 59—56 and Central Pointe took a time-out. Cortijo scored on a drive for the White Tigers to push their margin to five, but West Oaks wasn’t done. Djobet hit a free throw and 6’8 junior Ibrahima Traore was fouled and put in two more free throws to make the score 61-59 with 1:10 left to play and Central Pointe again called a timeout. After empty possessions by both teams, Central Pointe had the ball but there was too much time left to freeze the clock or force West Oaks to foul. With fifteen seconds left, 6’6 freshman Justin Roman caught the ball in the lane, scored and was fouled. He missed the free throw but Central Point was up four, 63-59. West Oaks was quick to push the ball up the floor and 6’1 senior Nazir Griffin drove the lane and was fouled with eight seconds left. He missed the first but made the second to get within three. West Oaks forced a turnover on Central Pointe’s inbound and needed a three to tie. The Flame got the look they wanted, but as was the case with most of their perimeter shots this afternoon, it was off-target. Central Pointe corralled the rebound and celebrated a state championship, winning by the score of 63-60.
Cortijo led Central Pointe with 17 points. Mejias added 13 points and Vukcevic finished with 10 points.
For West Oaks, Smith led all scorers with 22 points while Djobet finished with 13 points.