Patriots Soar Past Eagles 56-49 In Big Conference Win

Ralph Johnson drives to the hoop for a score. (All photo by Ron Morris)
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MINT HILL, NC – Oh doctor, the Independence Patriots on Friday night pulled off a must-win in “The Pit” by defeating the East Mecklenburg Eagles at home. The Eagles entered the game at 6-3 in the conference, and Indy 4-5. With this win the Patriots are above .500 overall with an 11-10 record, and 5-5 in a highly competitive 4A Conference 59.

Indy Coach Preston Davis during a key timeout.

The Patriots started off the scoring when senior forward Ralph Johnson landed a nifty 10′ jump shot giving the home crowd a thrill. Later in the period both Jordan Appling and Kameron Jasper would nail 3-pointers. Junior Michael McNair came off the bench and added a nice jumper to round off the scoring for the Patriots who took a 12-8 edge after one period.

In the second frame, after Sabastian Taylor took a knee in his thigh during the opening period, the Patriots used a combination of players to fill the void. Taylor’s presence under the boards with Johnson and Tosh Alberga was missed, as the Eagles took advantage of second shot opportunities as the Patriots countered with an extra shooting guard. Johnson scored 8 points for the Patriots in the half. However, the conference scoring leader Jordon Nevill a 3-point range scoring threat landed two 3-pointers, and a couple of jump shots to tally 11 points in the period for the high flying Eagles who took a 23-22 edge at the intermission.

Kameron Jasper driving on Jordon Nevill defending.

In the second half, the two teams continued to battle up and down the court. The return of Sabastian Taylor was key to the Patriots victory, it took pressure from Ralph Johnson and Alberga under the boards who began to dominate with 3 blocks and 2 deflections with Taylor’s presence as another rebounding threat. It forced the Eagles to depend more upon their perimeter game and 3 point shooting from Nevill, Johnson and Jonah Lawrence. The third period ended with the teams tied at 37-37. Taylor led the scoring for the Patriots with 7 points, while Nevill had 8 for the Eagles with two 3-pointers.

In the final period, the Patriots took charge by penetrating the lanes with some power moves to the basket, especially by senior Bryce Brooks with short jumpers, and hitting 4-5 free throws when the game was on the line. Appling drilled his second 3-point shot, while Taylor and Johnson combined for 7 points inside the paint. Meanwhile, Kanye Johnson scored 6 points and Lawrence 5 to lead the Eagles in the period.

Sabastian Taylor scores a basket for Indy.

This game was never settled until the final 9 seconds of the contest as Brooks buried any chance of a comeback with good free-throw shooting in the clutch. Also, the defense forced Nevill to take two 3-pointers just out of his range hitting the front of the rim which could have changed the outcome. The Patriots outscored the Eagles 19-12 in the final frame to secure the upset victory.

Ralph Johnson led the scoring for Indy with 14 points, Taylor 12, and Brooks 9. While Jordon Nevill led all scorers with 19 points, Lawrence 16, and Johnson 10 for the Eagles.

The Patriots have two huge conference games next week against local rivals Rocky River 8-2 the conference leader, and Butler 7-3. The Patriots 5-5 must win both games to make a statement as the conference tournament championship is now approaching rapidly.

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Ed Berti
Ed is retired and remains active as a freelance writer, local journalist and independent contractor. He is engaged in print and electronic media writing stories covering business, sports, hometown news and veteran's affairs including articles of interest to various media outlets. Ed is a graduate of Wagner College where he earned an MBA and holds a BBA from Pace University.
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