Varsity Boys Reach Sunshine State Finals, Finish 23-8

February 25, 2024

Coming into the season, The Rock’s Varsity Boys squad took on a major challenge: moving up from the SIAA Coastal division to the league’s Sunshine division.

With that ascension came the toughest competition the team has ever faced.

How would they respond? By finishing with the team’s best ever record at 23-8, and making it deeper into the state playoffs than any Lions’ boys varsity team before it.

Though they fell just short of a state championship, losing in the finals to Vine Christian Academy, the 2023-24 season will forever be one to remember.


Earning the #2 Seed in SIAA Sunshine

Despite lacking a single senior on its roster, Varsity Boys finished the regular season 12-1 in conference play, earning the two-seed and a first round bye in the SIAA Sunshine playoffs.

Powering their success was a lineup committed to playing to each other’s strengths and making each other better, all in the name of winning.


The Scorers

Freshman Colton Sembower (16.6 ppg) and junior Adam Henderson (16.3 ppg) led the way in the scoring department, lighting it up from the perimeter, in the paint, and in transition all season long.

The duo – each of whom were each named 1st-team all-state in SIAA Sunshine – also paced the team in rebounds and blocked shots, with Henderson averaging 8.2 boards and 1.4 blocks and Sembower averaging 7.2 boards and 1.2 blocks.


The Floor General

Both players would be the first to tell you all about the team’s most indispensable player: junior point guard Brady Bishop.

The explosive and skilled floor general was the team’s engine offensively and defensively, leading the way in assists (6.2), steals (3.9), and plus-minus (+19.1) while also adding an efficient 12.7 ppg.

As evidence of his value, the team went 0-2 in Bishop’s absence, struggling on both ends of the court.

With Bishop in the lineup, the Lions beat those same two teams by 18 and 22 points.


Other Key Starters

Also playing key roles for the Lions: juniors Malik Johnson and Lorrenzo Morris, and freshman Jeremiah Jones.

As the team’s starting power forward, Malik Johnson’s explosive cuts, defensive intensity, and take-no-prisoners approach to rebounding helped win many tough games.

Johnson’s offensive efficiency was unmatched on the team, as he averaged 7.9 ppg on a team-leading 63.2% eFG percentage, while also contributing 6.5 rebounds per game.

There were no tougher guards in the division pound-for-pound than Lorrenzo Morris and Jeremiah Jones. Both were starters for much of the season, contributing different skill sets to the team.

Morris excelled as a spot-up shooter, finishing #2 on the team in 3-point makes and averaging 9.0 ppg overall. Defensively, he was an elite positional defender, drawing perhaps more charges than anyone in the league.

Jeremiah Jones excelled as a playmaker with the ball in his hands, breaking down defenses and creating shots when they were needed most. He averaged 5.6 points and 3.5 assists, while also contributing tenacious defense on the perimeter (including 2.0 steals per game) and clutch shooting.


The Bench

No team can be successful without a bench that brings intensity, and this team was no exception.

Leading the way off the bench was junior Cam Quarles, who brought infectious energy and fight to every game. Quarles also consistently hit big shots from the perimeter, shooting 32% from 3-point land on the season.

Noah Cook and Keyane El Hajjami also contributed at the guard positions off the bench, showing tough perimeter defense and efficient scoring. Cook did much of his damage from 3-point range (33% 3PT) while El Hajjami excelled inside the arc (52% FG) and at pushing in transition.

Noah Howes led the centers in bench minutes — contributing rim protection and rebounding — while Nelson Tambling gave the Lions an intimidating physical presence on screens and boxouts.


The Coach

Coach Brian FindleyIn his first year as head coach, Brian Findley instilled toughness, resilience, and a sense of purpose in his young squad, inspiring them to reach new record-setting heights as a team.

Leading the team to its best finish ever was no cake walk. It required many 6am practices, hours of film breakdown, and a commitment to help every player get better every day.

Under Findley’s leadership, the team finished with its best conference record, overall record, and playoff record in its history.


Big Wins Against Local Rivals

In addition to its stellar play in SIAA Sunshine, the team defeated a number of local FHSAA rivals throughout the season – oftentimes, for the first time in team history.

Among those victories:

•  PK Yonge: 58-46

•  Suwannee: 79-60

•  Union County: 77-55

•  Trenton: 80-58

Varsity nearly added another big local win after opening a 20-point lead against Newberry, only to run into foul trouble and a tough overtime loss on the road. The anticipated rematch at The Rock’s gym was canceled due to weather.

With a 21-7 regular season record in tow, Varsity Boys headed into the postseason with a singular goal: winning its first state title.


Playing for a Championship

Due to its 12-1 record in conference play, the Lions earned a bye in the first round of SIAA Sunshine playoffs.

The next round would see the team hosting a tough divisional rival on The Rock’s home court.


State Quarterfinal: Montverde White (W, 57-55)

In its first playoff test, Varsity Boys hosted Montverde White, a talented team that would be coached that night by one of the most accomplished coaches in high school history, Kevin Boyle, and his son Brendan Boyle.

In a physical, hard-fought battle, The Rock pulled out a 57-55 win thanks to two clutch free-throws by Jeremiah Jones with seconds remaining and a game-sealing steal by Malik Johnson.

Colton Sembower led the scoring with 19 points on 7 of 12 shooting, while Brady Bishop added a polished 16 points, 5 assists, and 5 rebounds.



State Semifinal: Southeastern Prep (W, 67-64)

For the third round, Varsity Boys traveled to the SIAA tournament in Orlando to face Southeastern Prep Academy, who entered the matchup 11-2 in SIAA Sunshine play.

In a tense game that saw countless lead changes, the Lions pulled out another nail-biter, winning 67-64 to advance to the state finals.

Adam Henderson led all scorers with 29 points, dominating in transition and in the paint, and converting on a series of masterful dishes from Brady Bishop.

Colton Sembower added 20 points and 10 rebounds, while Bishop, Malik Johnson, Lorrenzo Morris, Jeremiah Jones, and Cam Quarles each contributed clutch plays and tough defense throughout to pull out the win.



State Final: The Vine Christian Academy (L, 68-59)
Having pulled off an upset the day before against the IMG Junior National team, Vine came into the state finals red hot.

While The Rock went 2-0 against Vine in the regular season, Vine’s experienced core of seniors – including the state’s #2 scorer at any level (29.1 ppg) and another scorer who had just scored 42 points the previous day – posed a major challenge.

True to form, the Lions never backed down.

In a high-stakes, up-and-down battle, The Rock hung tough and matched Vine basket for basket, despite falling into foul trouble early and throughout the game.

The Lions pulled within two points in the 4th quarter, only to see Vine pull away in the final minutes.

Late free throws opened the gap to a final score of 68-59 in favor of Vine.



The Future Remains Bright

Despite the loss, it’s clear The Rock’s Varsity Boys have much to be proud of, having finished #2 in the state in SIAA Sunshine while setting records and accomplishing many firsts along the way.

And while its success on the court will always be remembered, it’s the success off the court that will shape them as young men for years to come.

Under coach Brian Findley’s leadership, the team grew as individuals, grew as Christians, and learned to truly cherish the accomplishments they worked so hard for – together.

And with every player on the roster eligible to return in 2024-25, the sky’s the limit for what this team can accomplish next.


The Rock School


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Gainesville, FL 32607
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