Indy falls to North Mecklenburg 77-54 in 4th round of state playoffs

Indy's Nygell Verdier shoot over two Vikings defenders. (Ron Morris)
Divine Allah drives to the basket past Chris Ford. (Ron Morris)
Nygell Verdier and Trayden Williams fight for a loose ball. (Ron Morris)
Tachai Miller driving against Jeremy Gregory. (Ron Morris)

The Independence Patriots ran up against a buzz saw when they played the #1 seed North Mecklenburg Vikings on a neutral court at Hough High School where the Huskies play their home games.

There was a large crowd on hand from both schools and you could feel the excitement in the arena as the tip-off approached at 7:30 pm. The Vikings blew away the Patriots in the season opener 79-55 at North Mecklenburg. Indy has steadily improved throughout the season and many expected a very competitive game as Independence had won their second and third-round games convincingly. They entered the game at 22-7 overall, and 12-2 in the scrappy Southwestern 4A Conference. Indy had big wins against Myers Park and Porter Ridge for the conference title prior to the state playoffs.

After earning a 1st round bye being the #4 seed, in the 2nd round, Indy took down Richmond Senior, in the next round beat a good Huskies team. However, the Vikings proved to be too strong and deep with a talent for the Patriots who advanced to the Elite Eight after an early 2nd round departure last season since winning the state championship in 2017-2018.

In the first period, after the Vikings Jeremy Gregory scored off a rebound, Verdier was fouled and made 1-2 free throws. Omarion Bodrick followed with a tap-in and Indy was up 3-2 early. However, Tristan Maxwell drilled a 3-pointer and followed with a layup to put the Vikings ahead to stay at 7-3. Indy’s leading scorer Anthony Allen who entered the game averaging 16.1 points per game swished a 2-point jumper from the top of the key getting the Patriots to within five at 10-5. However, with 3:52 remaining, Allen took what seemed to be a harmless 3-point shot that went halfway down the rim and bounced out, he came up lame and limping on what looked like a knee injury. He would not return to action as he walked slowly off into the locker room with the trainers.

Divine Allah would drill a 3-pointer getting Indy to 14-8 with 3:00 minutes remaining. Verdier scored on a baseline drive, Jalen Hinton nailed a 3-point jump shot, then that man Verdier was fouled by Gregory on a power drive to the hoop. He proceeded to hit both free throws to get Indy within three points at 18-15. However, at the buzzer, Gregory grabbed another rebound and banked a shot off the backboard at the buzzer giving the Vikings a 20-15 edge.

In the second period, the game continued to be a very competitive contest. The Vikings opened up to a 26-17 lead before Verdier would swish a 10-foot jump shot. But these Vikings were relentless, they ran up the next six points taking a 34-19 lead. The Patriots De’Drick Givens aggressively grabbed a rebound and made a power move past Chris Ford to make the score 34-21. Givens followed with another layup to get the Patriots to 34-23. Allah then scored on a reverse layup followed by the “Big O” who was fouled and made both free throws cutting the lead to 34-27. Hinton was fouled and made 1-2 free throws getting Indy to 34-28 with 20 seconds remaining. Maxwell would score for the Vikings with 1.6 seconds on the scoreboard clock giving the home team a 36-28 advantage at the intermission.

In the third frame, the Vikings took control of the basketball game outscoring the Patriots 24-11 to open up a 21 point commanding lead. Verdier scored three baskets for Indy, while Hinton hit a 3-pointer, and Lee Harrington contributed a basket fighting for a rebound and putting the ball back up for two points off the bench. Meanwhile, the Vikings hit four 3-point shots during the period to continue their dominance.

In the final period, the two teams exchanged baskets Verdier kept Indy competitive running up and down the court. He added 8 points and grabbed several rebounds in an outstanding effort before being removed with 2:58 remaining in the contest. As of note for Indy in the final minutes, junior Zaire May drilled a 3-pointer from deep in the corner to get the Patriots to within 72-53 with 2:27 remaining in the game. Sophomore Landon King would make 1-2 free throws for Indy, while the Vikings scored the next five points to secure the 77-54 victory that was never in doubt.

Nygell Verdier led the scoring for Indy with 26 points and 9 rebounds, while Omarion Bodrick grabbed 9 rebounds and contributed 7 blocked shots in the contest playing excellent defensively.