Two local Mint Hill Men’s basketball teams met for the third time this season in the Western Regional Finals and the outcome became predictable after the third period. Independence can just steadily wear a team down. The Patriots always seem to get stronger and faster than their opponent in the fourth period.
In the first meeting of the two teams the Patriots squeaked out a one point victory at the Ravens Nest. In their second meeting in the familiar confines of their home court the Patriots beat Rocky River by seventeen points due to their outstanding second half. This time around it was no different as they pounded the Ravens in the fourth and final period outscoring them 28-13 to run away with a twenty seven point margin of victory to advance to the State 4A Championship game next Saturday March 10th, 7:30 pm at the Dean E. Smith Center, UNC-Chapel Hill against Eastern Regional Champion Heritage Huskies for the state title. The Patriots are 30-1, the Huskies 25-4. The Patriots last won the state title in 1997, their outstanding coach Preston Davis was a member on the championship team.
Coach Davis has been to the big game and will know what to expect. Also, he will certainly keep this team focused on achieving their first title in 20 years. Davis is a master at formulating a solid game plan around his players strengths to take advantage of their opponents perceived weakness and tendencies.
The game opened up with the Ravens talented Jaden Springer the super sophomore scoring first. After Matt Smith was fouled and hit one of two free throws, then fittingly the Patriots outstanding senior Jamarius Burton scored on a lay-up past Springer as the two all-star players were matched up most of the game head to head. After the first period the teams were tied 14-14. Rocky River coach Jason Moseley seemed to have his team ready to compete throughout the contest as they battled hard in a physical and emotional game.
In the second period when Coach Moseley called a time out with 5:14 on the scoreboard clock with Independence up 20-19, Darlinstone Dubar promptly scored off a rebound to go up by one. Moments later Jordan Mobley swishes his first 3 pointer, after a block by Matt Smith at 2:53 seconds for a 23-21 Indy lead off a rebound by Burton. A steal by Andra McKee led to a fast break, the slam was missed by Burton, however, Smith taps the ball in for 2 points. Then McKee hits a jumper followed by a slam dunk by Smith and suddenly the Patriots are up 29-21. Smith is fouled by Springer and makes his free throws. Then Burton follows with a good layup with 31 seconds and Indy is up 32-21 at intermission.
In the third period the Ravens came out ready to rumble scoring the first four points led by Springer and Dubar who both had powerful slam dunks to make the score 32-25. The teams exchanged baskets throughout the period with Indy outscoring the Ravens 12-11 to increase their advantage to 44-32.
In the fourth period the Patriots simply seemed to wear down the Ravens. After Springer opened up the scoring with a 2 point jumper, Jordan Mobely hit another 3 pointer for Indy. Then Ravens Elijah Sidbury netted a 3 pointer and Burton answered with 2 points on a layup. After a technical foul on both Springer and McKee, Raja Milton made a layup with 4:39 remaining to put Indy up 53-40. Burton follows with a layup, Ravens Trayden Williams swished a 3 pointer making the score 55-43. However, this was as close as the Ravens would get to Indy today. The Patriots in the final four minutes of the game took complete control and dominated as the Ravens seemed to slow down under the strain. Indy picked up the pace and ran off to a 62-45 lead with 2:51 remaining. The Patriots then scored 10 unanswered points to runaway with the Western Regional Championship 72-45.
Burton led all scorers with 25 points, Smith contributed 14 points and 10 rebounds for the double-double, while Ravens Springer scored 16 points followed by Dubar with 12.