Rock Lions triumph in basketball on new home court
Games were first in Ben S. Dillon Life Center
By Megan Shultz
The first basketball game in the Ben S. Dillon Life Center took place on Dec. 17. Coach Danny Dillon, the pastor of Rock Church, and the Rock Church School Lions basketball team had been preparing and practicing for this moment long before the gym’s construction was completed. COVID-19 slowed the process of the building’s opening and making many other things difficult. Fans were restricted because of pandemic restrictions; only parents were allowed in the building. Despite those challenges, this night has been a dream of Dillon and that of his late brother, Ben S. Dillon.
“I was crying most of the day and night. My brother and I dreamed of having our own gym one day, as all of our high school career was spent playing away games or games at the Armory Hall gymnasium,” the coach said. “We’ve experienced so many great things in the Ben S. Dillon Life Center already, such as church service, worship services, school plays, practices, but never an official basketball game. It was epic!”
The Dillons both grew up playing basketball and soccer. Ben was a part of a basketball team at Paul D. Camp Community and then high jumped at Liberty University. He also walked on to the LU Basketball team his senior year. Ben traveled to Liberty because his brother, Danny, was already there. Danny went there to play soccer and ended up walking on the Liberty University basketball team as well. After successful college sports lives, Danny and Ben both returned to Franklin to pursue their passion for the future of their hometown.
“Ben and I were gifted beyond your normal small Christian school athletes,” Dillion said. “We pushed each other every day. Being a part of the Liberty University athletics was a dream come true for both of us, but I look back and see that our drive and passion was really so we could be a light to the next generation. That’s why we built this gym.”
The Rock Lions Varsity and JJV teams were victorious in both of their games against the visiting New Life Academy Bobcats from Elizabeth, North Carolina. The Rock Lions Varsity team took the floor first for the inaugural game on their Home Court. Many of these players have been a part of the JV and JJV teams throughout the past five years. The Rock Lions got the first tip as Luke Blythe tapped it to D.J. Dillon, who immediately scored, and the Lions never looked back. They were leading the Bobcats by a score of 36 to 25 at half-time. The Bobcats hung around in the third quarter but were put away by Rock in the fourth quarter. The final score was 64 to 43.
D.J., a sophomore, had a banner night scoring 43 points while knocking down five 3-pointers. Christian Fanjul and Adam Deaton both had seven rebounds apiece. The Rock Lions had six players that got in on the scoring, Christian Fanjul 6, Luke Blythe 5, Cole Butler and Adin Brown 4, and Benny Dillon 2.
The Bobcats were led by freshman Jordan Dunn with 15 points and the second leading scorer was Austen Gardner dropping 12 points.
The Rock JJV team made the doubleheader complete as they took down the Bobcats by a score of 44 to 32. Rock was led by Adin Brown with 22 and Benny Dillon who added 16. New Life’s Dontrell Lee put a strong 22 points up for the visiting team.
The coach added, “I couldn’t be more proud of the boys. There was a lot of pressure trying to win the first game ever in the new facility and they won both. We are coming off of a season with only three losses, so I knew we would be strong. The boys have been practicing for six weeks and it paid off. The love that they show God is what truly makes them winners.”
It was Dillon who had desired to have excellence throughout the night as all players, not just the starting line-up, were introduced. Derrick Ledbetter was the commentator, Jack Dillon played Christian music throughout the night as well as capturing the game on the three projector screens with four different camera angles. Even though the spectators were masked it didn’t stop them from cheering and crying tears of joy throughout the historic night.
“We want to thank New Life Academy for coming and being a part of our history. They are a great team with a solid program,” said the coach. “I want to give God glory for all he has blessed us with. I want to thank Rock Church for being the greatest church on the planet! I also want to thank the community for rallying behind us. And finally, Walter Clemons, Travis Felts and Dave Lease who hired me as head coach for the Franklin High School team in 2004 after serving as an assistant to head coach Dave Lease. It was those 15 years of experience that gave me the passion to build this facility and coach my sons. It was hard to leave the Franklin High program, but I left it in great hands as my assistant for 10 years, Robby Cutchins, took the reins and is doing a phenomenal job. I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life loving on all the generations to come.”
MEGAN SHULTZ is the administrator at Rock Church. Call her at 757-562-3878.