On Friday night December 23rd the Carmel Christian Cougars who are 14-2 on the season beat previously undefeated Independence now 9-1 in a highly contested basketball game 61-55 in the final 20 seconds of the game on two slam dunks on breakaways caused by Patriot forced errors and good coaching by Byron Dinkins.
The 2A SPAA Conference Cougars who are nationally ranked at Number 72 and 6th in the state beat a solid 4A Southwestern Conference team ranked in the Top 125 nationally and 9th in the state. Both teams are well balanced and the Cougars seemed to have more bench depth.
Independence Coach Preston Davis pulled out his entire arsenal in his coaching tool kit and almost pulled off the victory for the Patriots who were battling against a larger team and proved to be warriors.
This game was a defensive battle and physical war on the basketball court as both teams played head to head in some of the best hard nosed power basketball seen all season. To have two local teams of this caliber grinding for an advantage made for an exciting championship matchup. The two teams did not disappoint the good crowd on hand at Charlotte Country Day to watch this classic showdown.
In the first period both teams seemed tight and Independence held a slim 8-7 lead. During the second period the teams settled into the flow of the game with both teams going back and forth exchanging leads. With 4:10 seconds remaining on the scoreboard clock Raja Milton hit a 3 pointer for the Patriots to tie the score at 17 points to electrify the Patriot faithful. Then Raja hit another 3 point jump shot from the baseline to tie the score at 21 with under a minute remaining in the half. The first half ended 23-21 with Carmel Christian holding a slight lead.
In the third period Indy came out fired up and Coach Davis went with his bigger team which includes Matt Smith and Myles Pauldin up front to match up better against the bigger Cougars. This paid dividends as the Patriots took a 38-32 lead outscoring the Cougars in the period.
However, in the fourth period the Cougars made up the deficit as they made their free throws as the Patriots did not shoot well from the foul line in this particular game costing them the victory in my opinion. Both teams ended the second half with 10 team fouls each, so whoever shot better from the foul line had the advantage.
With 48 seconds remaining in the game the Cougars held on to a slim 55-53 lead. Then with 35.7 seconds on the scoreboard clock Cougars Forward Marten Maide fouled out. Unfortunately, the Patriots were not able to take advantage of the opportunity and Coach Dinkins called for a timeout.
On an inbound alley-oop pass which appeared to be a designed play changed the game giving the Cougars a 57-53 lead with under 30 seconds on the game clock. Then a poor inbounds pass lead to a turnover giving Donovan Gregory an easy slam, and another Patriot turnover with under 15 seconds gave the Cougars another easy dunk to put the game out of reach to ice the victory and tournament title.
Matt Smith had 16 points, Raja Milton 15 and Jamarius Burton 12 points for the Patriots. Donovan Gregory lead all scorers with 23 points, Myles Pierce 13 and Maide 11 for the Cougars. Both Smith and Myles Pauldin snatched 10 rebounds each for Indy.