The Patriots won three straight games to claim the championship of the First Bank Holiday in the Pines Tournament by defeating Pinecrest High School 52-49 in the title game.
The Patriots (12-3) were led by senior Justyn Hamilton the 6’10” Forward/Center who scored 12 points, had 3 blocked shots, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and has become the force we all expected this season. He has evolved into a game changer and can dominate a game by potentially providing a double-double every time he steps on to a basketball court. He is averaging 13.6 points per game, 10.1 rebounds and has accumulated 54 blocked shots in 15 games.
The team is well balanced with contributions coming from seven different players in the championship game. The other leading scorers were senior guard Chase Fairfax 9 points, Andra McKee 8, Victor Tshiona 7, Chea Johnson 7 and Casey Allen 6 points. Victor Tshiona also had 4 rebounds and the 6’5” senior forward remains a physical presence under the boards.
In the opening round game Independence blew past Durham Academy 63-38. Justyn Hamilton led all scorers with 16 points, 10 rebounds, while Matthew Statile contributed 14 points for the victory. The game was dominated by the Patriots from the opening tip-off even though the 1st period score was close.
In the second game of the tournament the Patriots defeated Richmond High School 87-71. Victor Tshiona pumped in 28 points his season high while Justyn Hamilton contributed 19 and Raja Milton 17 points. Again the Patriots remained very physical controlled the boards and the tempo of the game.
Senior point guard Chea Johnson who is healthy again is an important piece of the puzzle for Coach Davis and his Patriots. He was voted the MVP of this tournament based on his very consistent play contributing key points with numerous assists while being the captain on offense. Chea is extremely effective at breaking the press and pushing the ball up court setting the pace offensively. He also plays solid defense and uses natural quickness to his advantage.
Coach Davis enjoys playing in holiday tournaments because it sets the tone to see where you stand as a team. It gives the coaching staff an opportunity to confirm the things we do well and shows the areas where we need to improve.
This writer has attended a number of practices and has conducted profiles of the seniors while being around the team. Everyone in the program is focused on self-improvement and making a run at a state championship. All the coaches and players are a family they push and support one another which is an essential ingredient for team success.
The holiday tournaments are a great experience because it exposes the team to different styles of play, gives the coaches an opportunity to see how they stack up against teams around the state. Also, it provides valuable game experience in tournament play which should prove to be beneficial during the post season to make their run for a potential state title.
Upcoming games of interest are Myers Park at home on Friday January 6, Rocky River at home on January 10 and rival Butler away on 1/13.