Rock Lions go 3-1, earn 5th at A.C.E. Nationals

Published 5:15 pm Friday, June 23, 2023

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Rock Church School’s varsity boys basketball team showed this spring that it once again is among the best Accelerated Christian Education teams in the country.

Though the Lions, who won the A.C.E. National Convention last season, did not repeat as national champions this year, they remained in contention to claim the title. 

They went 3-1 in the tournament this spring, placing 5th.

The A.C.E. Nationals were held at the Ridgecrest Convention Center near Asheville, North Carolina, and they also included academic and other athletic competitions.

RCS senior D.J. Dillon competed in the boys 100-meter dash and won, making it the first time the school has produced a winner in that event.

A.C.E. includes roughly 6,000 schools worldwide, and there were more than 1,500 student-athletes that qualified to compete at the national convention.

Rock Church School placed second overall in athletics.


The Rock Lions varsity boys basketball team, which won the 1A Mid Atlantic Christian Athletic Association title during its school season, reached the national stage after winning the A.C.E. Regionals event at Appalachian Bible College in West Virginia back in April.

The region that RCS competed in covered five different states.

At nationals, the Lions opened up with a win, and then faced a team from Pennsylvania in the quarterfinals.

“They actually came in undefeated, like they hadn’t lost in their school season or in the region,” RCS Head Coach Danny Dillon said of the Pennsylvania squad. “And man, we were really close to giving them their first loss.”

Rock Church fell by only a few points.

“It was a disappointing loss, especially when you lost to the team that won it all,” Dillon said, as the Pennsylvania team went on to win in the title game by one point.

Despite the loss, the Rock Lions still had more playing opportunities given the structure of the tournament.

“When we lost in the quarters, we dropped down with the four other teams that all lost and then won those next two (games) to finish out,” Dillon said.

RCS defeated schools from Texas, Missouri and Kentucky, going 3-1 in the tournament and finishing the season with an overall record of 25-4.

“It was a great experience,” Dillon said of the tourney. “We already felt like we had such a banner year with winning the (Mid Atlantic Christian Athletic Association) and then obviously coming out of our region, which we did.”

Noting that the Rock Lions had not been at nationals for many years before their recent run of success, Dillon said, “We’re so blessed being able to play at that level. … Just blessed to be, out of all those A.C.E. schools, one of the top six basketball programs.”


D.J. Dillon qualified for the A.C.E. Nationals in the 100 meters after winning at the A.C.E. regional level.

His father, Coach Dillon, said D.J. won the national title out of a field of approximately 70 to 80 competitors.

“We were shocked,” Coach Dillon said. “We knew he was fast. I didn’t know he was that fast. He won regionals probably by maybe a full second. … You see the speed in soccer, and then basketball to a degree, but we just had no clue, and he beat some elite runners.”

Reacting to this national title win, D.J. Dillon said, “I always like to first thank God for giving me these abilities. I was shocked that I came out on top; those boys were fast!”

D.J. Dillon has starred for Rock Church School on the soccer pitch, the basketball court and now the track.

“What an incredible ending to an unbelievable dream of a career,” Coach Dillon said. “God has really blessed that young man, and he has set records that probably will never be beaten.”