Rock Lions bring home 1A MACAA title
Published 5:27 pm Friday, February 24, 2023
The Rock Church School varsity boys basketball team came just short of winning a state championship last season, but this year, the Lions, led by senior superstar D.J. Dillon, ensured that the ending to the 1A Mid Atlantic Christian Athletic Association season was a perfect one.
PERFECT END TO THE REGULAR SEASON
Rock wrapped up the 1A North Conference title on Feb. 6 when it defeated visiting Suffolk Christian Academy 81-38 on Senior Night.
This win gave the Lions a 7-1 conference record, edging out Bethel Assembly Christian Academy.
Dillon scored 55 in the victory over SCA, which was his final performance in the Ben S. Dillon Life Center.
“That was a Ben S. Dillon Life Center record, probably will stand for a little while too,” Lions Head Coach Danny Dillon said of his son’s point total. “So that was his last game there — pretty strong way to go out, for sure.”
The RCS varsity boys basketball team has been undefeated in the Life Center since beginning to play there in 2020, going 22-0 across the last three seasons.
“It’s pretty unreal to be able, after three seasons, to never have a loss in that facility,” Coach Dillon said. “Now I know it won’t last forever … but it has been very special to even have a facility like that, but then to play so well in it, yeah, it makes me proud.”
The Lions’ success in recent years, including this season, has been fueled by the stellar play from D.J. Dillon, who plays at the guard position.
He has been supported by an outstanding group of teammates.
“Our guys, for a small Christian school, put in work and are disciplined and play their role just as good as any team that I’ve been a part of,” Coach Dillon said. “Yes, D.J. scores the majority of the points, but it’s the unsung heroes of a Cole Butler, a Luke Blythe, Ian Johnson, Miles Dawkins, Seth Woodward — they run around, they’re setting screens, some of these guys never even look to take a shot because they know their role. So that is a very special gift because these guys are selfless.”
PERFECT END TO THE DUAL STATE TOURNAMENT
The Rock Lions traveled about two hours to Mt. Calvary Christian Academy in Hookerton, North Carolina, for the 1A Mid Atlantic Christian Athletic Association Dual State Tournament, which ran from Feb. 16-18.
Coach Dillon added the word “dual” into the title to highlight how the association includes teams from both Virginia and North Carolina.
“We played the best three games all season,” he said. “We hadn’t played in 10 days, we were a little banged up, and through the years of coaching at Franklin High School and now at Rock for the last six or seven years, you always have to put in new stuff. And so during those 10 days, we put in new plays, we worked on a different defense, we put a lot of shots up, and it just paid off.”
On Thursday, Feb. 16, RCS faced Suffolk Christian and won 59-27.
Then in the semifinals, the Lions defeated New Life Academy 57-38 on Friday, Feb. 17.
In the championship game on Saturday, Feb. 18, Rock faced Pamlico Christian Academy.
“I felt like Pamlico kind of upset Bethel (Assembly Christian Academy in the semifinals), which is actually the only team we lost to all season,” Coach Dillon said. “We were definitely prepared to play Bethel.”
The Lions had never faced PCA.
“They were the No. 1 team in the (1A) South (Conference), and they beat a team that beat us, they’re a real good shooting team, (so) our thought process was this is going to be an absolute battle,” Dillon said.
At tipoff, RCS junior power forward Ian Johnson tipped the ball back to senior center Luke Blythe, who passed the ball to D.J. Dillon, who pulled up just inside halfcourt, hitting a roughly 32-foot three-pointer.
“And as soon as it went in, it was like, ‘This is our day,’” Coach Dillon said. “And then we put a press on, because we didn’t want (PCA) to settle into three-point shooting.”
Rock forced turnovers, and D.J. Dillon went on to score the first 12 points of the game.
His teammates began getting onto the board, including sophomore guard Miles Dawkins, and the Lions found themselves up 22-0.
Coach Dillon said he told his players to stay focused because Pamlico was a three-point shooting team that could come back quickly.
“(The Lions) stayed dialed in, and the second quarter was almost as dominating as the first quarter, and we’re up 47-6 at halftime,” Coach Dillon said. “I have never seen a half like that in a championship game, ever — we’re clicking on all cylinders, and the other team is totally rattled. This wasn’t a quarterfinal game, this wasn’t a play-in game, this was the championship game, and God allowed these boys to play their absolute best.”
There was a running clock in the second half, and Coach Dillon eventually put in his substitute players.
The Rock Lions led 56-11 after three quarters and ended up winning 58-20.
“It was just our weekend,” Coach Dillon said. “It was our three best basketball games, and on (Saturday), it was one of our best basketball games in 30 years, if not ever. Even playing myself, I don’t remember anything remotely with that kind of pressure, with that kind of intensity, with that kind of crowd, I don’t know that I’ve seen anything (like that) out of Rock Church School.”
D.J. Dillon finished with 37 points, scoring 30 in the first half. Dawkins finished with 14 points, including 12 in the first half. Johnson grabbed 14 rebounds, and Blythe collected 11.
It was a triumphant turnaround after the otherwise successful 2021-22 run in the 1A MACAA ended in a 66-63 overtime loss to Jacksonville Christian Academy in the state final.
“The goal this whole season was to win it all,” D.J. Dillon said. “Falling short in OT last year made me even hungrier than ever. Me and the guys have put in a lot of work since the first of November, and it paid off. I was so nervous heading into the tournament, but for God to bless me with such a great run is a dream come true! It is so incredible to share this moment with my dad as my coach. My teammates were such an intricate part of our success as well. But in the end, all the glory goes to God, because without Him we are nothing!”
The Rock Lions once again earned the Christian Character Award for the dual state tourney.
D.J. Dillon was nominated to the First-Team All-North Conference, and he was also named MVP of the tournament. Dawkins also received first-team all-north conference honors.