26 Feb 2024


Since its inception, the Sunshine Independent Athletic Association (SIAA) has been arguably the most talent-laden and competitive independent high school basketball league in the country.  The 2023-2024 season would be no different.  After very competitive quarter and semi-final games, the league’s top two seeds, Gainesville The Rock School (#1) and Daytona Beach DME Academy (#2) reached the title game at the Genesis Orlando Sportsplex.

DME jumped out quickly as a three-point play from 6’8 junior Babatunde Duradola, a three pointer from 5’10 senior Yamare Bell and a putback by 7’1 junior Moustapha Thiam gave them an 8-0 lead.  The Rock finally got on the board with a three pointer in transition by 6’9 senior and Virginia Tech signee R.J. Jones.  That was the start of a 14-4 Rock run, which included a pair of three pointers by 6’5 junior Austin Leslie, to put The Rock on top 14-12 with just under three minutes to play in the opening quarter, forcing a DME timeout.  The Rock continued its roll after that stoppage in play and led 19-14 going into the second quarter.

Momentum changes sides early and often in the SIAA and the second quarter was no exception.  DME held The Rock to just four points in the second quarter.  Meanwhile, DME was finding its offensive rhythm.  Savo Drezgic, a 6’3 junior, drilled a pair of three pointers in the quarter and Matas Buteliauskas, a 6’6 junior, drilled another.  An offensive rebound dunk by DME’s 6’7 senior Jaylen Robinson capped off the scoring for the half, which found DME up eight, 31-23.

DME started the third period with a 5-0 run, four of those coming from Robinson, to make the score 36-23 with 6:17 to play in the quarter, forcing a Rock timeout.  Momentum changed jerseys at that point as The Rock went on a 10-0 run, six of those coming on three-point shots by 6’6 junior Clarance Massamba.  With two minutes left in the period, The Rock was down just three, 36-33, and now it was DME’s turn to take a timeout.  Momentum decided to switch jerseys again as DME closed out the quarter with an 8-3 run, seven of those coming from Drezgic, to lead 44-36 heading into the final period of play.

The Rock scored six unanswered over the first five minutes of the period and was now within two of DME at 44-42.  DME didn’t help their cause with four consecutive turnovers.  The Rock’s roll continued throughout the period.  By the time DME’s first points of the quarter came from a Drezgic three-point play, The Rock had scored eighteen unanswered points to seize complete control of the contest.  In all, The Rock outscored DME 22-3 in the final quarter to win by the score of 58-47.

Leslie was voted the game’s MVP thanks to a team-high 17 points, going 5-7 from deep in the process.  Evan Sterck, a 6’2 junior, added 12 points while Jones finished with 10 points.

For DME, only Drezgic could crack double-figures, as he had 18 points to lead all scorers.



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