A strong finish to the first half and consistent play in the second propelled the Patriots to a 69-59 win over the Eagles from Northwood Temple Academy on Friday afternoon in the 2nd Annual Hoops and Dreams Showcase played at Methodist University in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
Indy’s head basketball coach Preston Davis said, “Coming into the game I knew they had a dangerous threat with Josh Nickelberry, a Louisville commit. We knew he was a player, and we had to lock our defense around him. Our ultimate goal was to slow him down, and I think our guys did that this afternoon.”
Indy did hold Nickelberry down. The Patriots held him to only two points in the first half and gave up 13 in the second half for an afternoon total of 15 points. Northwood Temple’s Charles Page led the Eagles with 19 points making five 3-pointers.
After jumping out to a 17-12 lead in first period, Indy opened the second quarter by forcing a turn over, and a driving layup by Tyler Harris made the score 19-12. Anthony Allen increased Indy’s lead to 22-12 on a baseline 3-pointer. Indy’s AJ McKee scored on a drive down the lane moving the Patriots moved out to a 24-12 lead prompting Northwood to call a timeout.
After the Northwood timeout, Eagles’ Brandon Franklin hit a 3-pointer cutting the score to nine, 24-15 with five minutes left in the first half. However, Indy went back up to a ten point lead on an Anthony Allen 3-pointer making the score 29-19. On Northwood’s inbound pass, Raja Milton picked off the pass, was hammered at the top of the key and was awarded two free throws to put Indy up by 12 at 31-19 with 2:24 remaining in the first half.
On the Eagles inbound play, Coach Davis called for pressure defense which resulted in a turnover and a pass into the lane to AJ McKee, who was fouled giving Indy the ball under their own basket. On the inbounds play Anthony Allen hit another 3-pointer giving the Patriots a 34-19 lead with one minute left in the first half.
As the first half came to an end, Northwood got a field goal to make the first half score 34-21 in favor of the Patriots.
The third quarter play opened with Northwood drawing an Indy foul. Josh Nickelberry went to the line for the Eagles and made the front end of a two shot foul. As the second shot came off the rim, Miles Pauldin grabbed the rebound but somehow committed a foul giving the Eagles the ball. All of this took place under two minutes and all the Eagles came away with was one point.
A field goal by AJ Mckee and a thunderous dunk by Matt Smith moved Indy out to a 38-22 lead. However, Northwood nailed a 3-pointer cutting the score to 38-24.
Indy moved out to a 15 point lead when Tyler Harris pulled down an offensive rebound and got the put back making the score 40-25 with 4:55 remaining in the period. Before the Patriots had time to celebrate the shot, Northwood’s Charles Page sank a 3-point shot and Jamahri Harvey hit two free throws cutting the score back to ten 40-30 with 3:33 left in the third.
Indy’s Omarion Bodrice drove the baseline scoring the field goal to put the Patriots back up to a 12 point lead. At the 2:51 mark, Anthony Allen’s three point shot bounced off the rim. Matt Smith came down with the rebound, got hammered, took the ball back to the rim, scored and picked up a foul.
Again the Eagles cut Indy’s lead to ten with Jamahri Harvey scoring from the charity stripe with 1:57 left in the third quarter. Indy’s Amonti Burton drove the baseline to make the score 51-37. Then Raja scored and was fouled. Raja make the old-fashion 3-point play and Indy led by 54-39 as the third quarter came to an end.
The fourth quarter started with the Eagles’ Charles Page knocking down a 3-pointer 54-42 with 7:38 showing on the clock. After the Eagles’ basket, the Patriots committed a turn over. Eagles’ Travon Jackson picked up the loose ball and went to the basket for the power dunk but missed, and Indy came away the the ball.
With 3:44 to play, Raja Milton’s baseline 3-pointer put Indy up 63-44. However, the Eagles’ Charles Page answered with a 3-pointer of his own to make the score 63-47. At the one minute make Matt Smith picked up a loose ball and drove in for the dunk putting Indy up 65-49. Tyler Harris connected for a couple of foul shots for a Patriots 67-51 lead.
With 1:49 left in the game, Raja Milton passes to Matt Smith for another thunderous dunk for a 69:51 lead. Northwood cut the score to 69-56 with 50 seconds remaining in the game. Eagles’ Charles Page cut the score to ten, 69-59, on another 3-pointer with 30 seconds left in the game.
Indy just held the ball and ran out the clock to take a first round win in the 2nd Annual Hoops and Dreams Showcase.
Members of the media voted Independence’s Matt Smith player of the game.
After the game, I talked with Coach Davis and asked him about AJ McKee’s defensive play in the game. Coach Davis said, “What can I say? He is a defensive catlistic for us. He brings a lot of energy, a lot of intensity. I tell him everyday he leads our defense. If he is not on point and aggressive, we are going to struggle. When he brings it, it lifts everybody else up.”
I asked the Coach how Raja Milton was handling the responsibilities as the team’s point guard. “In two games he has done a good job. You know, I’m on him through out the whole game. I don’t want him or the fans to think he’s not doing a good job because he is. I’m just trying to mold him into that leader, so sometime I can sit down and let him run the show. By all means he is doing a good job.”
Finally I asked if Matt Smith was injured taking that charge. “Matt took a hard shot on a charge. As you know, he went back into the game making dunks, getting rebounds and player of the game. Matt is a big tough kid, and he’ll be ready to go tomorrow.”
Senior and Murray State commit Matt Smith led the Patriots with 16 points. AJ McKee and Queens College commit added 14 points. Junior Anthony Allen had 12 points, all three point baskets. Western Carolina commit Tyler Harris poured in 11 points. Rounding out the scoring for the Patriots were Raja Milton 8, Amonti Burton and Miles Pauldin with 4 points each, and Omarion Bodrice finished the afternoon with 2 points.
Independence 17 17 20 15 – 69
Northwood Temple Academy 12 9 18 20 – 59