The Independence Patriots men’s basketball team lived up to it’s Number 1 ranking in the area with a solid 60-51 victory over their rival Butler on Friday night.
The game was an epic battle of two titans struggling to win a coveted title. In the first period the Patriots had a difficult time scoring points. In fact both teams struggled with the score tied 4-4 at 4:25 into the game midway through the period. However, things settled down and Butler took a 16-12 lead into the second period.
Indy Coach Preston Davis with 2:00 minutes into the period gave Matt Smith a rest after committing his second foul. Enter Miles Pauldin, Patriots sixth man, who always seems to match up well against Gerrale Gates. The 6’5″ Pauldin made a huge difference grabbing important rebounds and scoring 4 points during the next six minutes while playing solid defense.
Tournament MVP Jamarius Burton showed his leadership for the Patriots as he scored 8 points and directed traffic on the court getting assists and rebounds. At the end of the period going into intermission the Patriots held a slim 25-24 advantage by outscoring their opponent 13-8, it appeared to become a defensive battle. Also, Butler’s game plan was obvious, they were trying to slow down the very athletic run and shoot style of basketball the Patriots like to play.
In the third period with Matt Smith again matched up with Gerrale Gates he began to turn up his game a notch or two. He scored 6 points and battled like a Spartan under the boards head to head with Gates and other Bulldogs. The strong junior added two slams electrifying the large crowd on hand. Andra McKee began to heat up and suddenly Indy had a 38-30 lead with 2:23 remaining in the period. By the end of the period the Patriots opened up their edge by six points 40-34.
When the fourth period started Butler tried to make their run. With 5:50 remaining Coach Davis called for a time out, Butler was now behind by 4 points 42-38. With the adjustment made it was Butler’s turn for a time out with 4:45 remaining and Indy in the lead 47-41 just when DJ Little answered to a crushing Matt Smith lay-up with a 3 pointer.
When the teams returned to the court with 2:13 remaining the Patriots had a 52-43 lead which seemed to be comfortable. However, there is no quit in the Bulldogs as Rocky River learned in the semi-final game. Then with 56.7 seconds on the clock Andra McKee was fouled and he hit both free throws for a 54-43 advantage. At 34.6 seconds Butler hits a 3 pointer 54-46, they foul Burton 32.9 seconds and he calmly converts both free throws 56-46. Andra McKee makes a steal and slams for two with 18.7 seconds, then with 12.2 seconds Butler’s Jalen Gibson hits a 3 pointer 58-51, the Bulldogs foul Burton again with 10.7 seconds, Burton makes both shots to ice the championship.
After the game Southwestern Conference “Coach of the Year” Preston Davis said, “I’m proud of this team, the boys stayed focused, they always seem to find ways to win.”
Jamarius Burton Tournament MVP led all scorers with 17 points, Andra McKee contributed 16, Matt Smith had 12, while Jalen Gibson scored 12 and Gerrale Gates 11 in the loss.