The recent Patriot 76-69 loss to their arch rival Butler High School was a huge setback for Independence. The Bulldogs are Number 1 in the Charlotte Observer Sweet 16 with an 18-0 overall record and 6-0 in conference games. They are also ranked 5th in the state and 129 nationally. The Charlotte Observer Number 4 ranked Indy Patriots are now 13-4 overall and 4-1 in conference play. Indy is currently ranked 20th in the state and 596 nationally. This victory gives Butler a big home court advantage going into post season competition. The two teams will face off again at Independence the last game of the regular season on February 10th. Indy now needs to win all their remaining conference games including defeating Butler on their home court next month.
From the outset Butler led the Patriots throughout the game. The Bulldogs biggest lead was 52-39 in the contest. However, the Patriots came roaring back scoring 30 points in the fourth period. Patriots guard Robert Bonar led the charge and scored a season high 20 points, Matthew Statile 13, Chea Johnson 11, and Matthew Smith 11. Meanwhile, Temple University recruit Justyn Hamilton was limited to 6 points and 7 rebounds. Prior to the game Hamilton was averaging 13.6 points per game, 10.1 rebounds with 54 blocked shots over the previous 15 games.
Jah’lil Carter the bulldogs big man in the middle did an outstanding job on Hamilton as he boxed the 6’10” senior out and kept him off the boards throughout the contest. The Bulldogs leading scorers were Omega Stitt 20 points and Gerrale Gates added 16 points for the victors.
The Patriots have high expectations of making a run in the post season for a possible state championship, however, they are going to have to beat the Bulldogs and win tough games against the best teams like Wesleyan Christian ranked Number 2 in the state and 76 nationally. The Patriots lost 55-52 in game they could have and should have won at the Queen City Clash Championship game over the holidays.
The good news is the Patriots defeated Rocky River in a conference game a few days later 82-60 putting Indy back on track and moving in a positive direction going forward. Chea Johnson led all scorers with 21 points while Robert Bonar contributed 15, Victor Tshiona 12, Andra McKee 10, Chase Fairfax 8 and Matthew Smith 8.
Upcoming games for the Patriots include East Mecklenburg on Friday January 20 at home. Other key games include West Mecklenburg, Meyers Park (2), Porter Ridge and Garinger before the season finale against Butler at home.