Lions off to 12-0 start this season

Published 12:00 pm Wednesday, January 18, 2023

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The Rock Church School varsity boys basketball team held a 12-0 record entering its game Tuesday, Jan. 17, inspiring the confidence of its coach as the 1A North Conference schedule represents the majority of regular-season games remaining for the Lions.

“They’ve been doing really good, working really hard trying to get from soccer legs to basketball legs,” Rock Lions Head Coach Danny Dillon said of his players during a Jan. 6 interview.

He noted that he has four seniors on his team, including his son, the team’s standout leader, senior guard D.J. Dillon.

“I have guys that have been in the system for four, five, six years, and that just matters because they try to pick up right where we left off…,” Coach Dillon said. “So they’ve been working hard.”

A major highlight of the Lions’ present undefeated run came Jan. 3 in their 64-56 comeback home-opening win against Bethel Christian School.

Coach Dillon said that Rock had played BCS shortly before Christmas and won 56-53. The Lions also led at halftime during that game.

On Jan. 3, the Lions found themselves down at halftime — 37-34 — for the first time this season.

“(Bethel Christian) had hit eight threes in the first half,” Coach Dillon said. “They were shooting lights out.”

He had switched defenses in the second half of the teams’ December meeting, and he employed the same strategy in the Jan. 3 game.

“We waited to go man-to-man (till) the second half, even though they hit so many threes,” he said. “And when we came out in man, they only had one three in the second half.”

Coach Dillon noted that Bethel Christian is coached by a woman with 10 years of experience coaching with the Christopher Newport University women’s basketball team, and BCS is well-disciplined as a result.

He said the BCS coach utilized a triangle-and-two defensive scheme on D.J., meaning she assigned two players to guard D.J. 

Coach Dillon said he has seen this defense used before but never for the whole game — until Jan. 3.

“This coach put two players on D.J. for 32 minutes,” Coach Dillon said. “So essentially, like, ‘We’ll let the rest of your team play four-on-three.’”

The strategy helped put Bethel Christian up at halftime, “but D.J. was just still a little too tough,” Coach Dillon said.

He finished the game with 38 points, going 11-for-13 from the free throw line, and he also had seven rebounds.

“We set screens for him all over the place,” Coach Dillon said.

Rock Church junior forward Ian Johnson contributed 17 points and 11 rebounds.

Coach Dillon also credited sophomore guard Miles Dawkins, senior guard Seth Woodward, senior forward Cole Butler and junior forward Justin Temple for clamping down defensively on Bethel Christian’s three best guards in the second half.

“It was even more of an impressive win to be down at half, to win by eight and to have D.J. have two guys on him the whole time,” Coach Dillon said.

The coach praised everyone on his roster for applying themselves, playing hard and giving the glory to God.

“We’re excited to enter conference play,” he said Jan. 6. “If we can stay healthy, we’ve got a chance at winning the (1A) North Conference, and we’ll see what happens when we get to states.”