High School Sports

Independence boys turn up defense, claim school’s 2nd state 4A championship

Independence celebrates state championship

Independence High School players and fans celebrate winning the NCHSAA State 4A basketball championship over Heritage at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill Saturday, March 10, 2018.
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Independence High School players and fans celebrate winning the NCHSAA State 4A basketball championship over Heritage at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill Saturday, March 10, 2018.

Independence High’s boys’ basketball team is a state champion again.

The Patriots used the same zone defense to confuse Wake Forest Heritage that it had used to confuse 30 of its previous 31 opponents Saturday in the N.C. 4A state title game.

Independence won 71-60 in the type of game it prefers, slow, steady and dominated by defense. Coming into the finals, the Patriots had limited 23 of its 31 opponents to 60 points or less.

Heritage (25-5), which had won 18 straight games, got to 60, but 18 of those points came in the final three and a half minutes when the Patriots had already salted the game away.

Independence won its 22nd straight game, finished the season at 31-1 and won its first state championship since 1997, when coach Preston Davis was a player.

“Man, this is awesome,” Davis said. “This is great. I mean, what can you say? I’m glad to represent Independence, my alma mater. I’m glad to represent the 704 (area code). This is just a great way to go out this season.”

THREE WHO MATTERED

Jamarius Burton, Independence: State finals MVP, a 6-4 unsigned senior, finished with 13 points, seven rebounds and three assists. He masterfully picked apart Heritage’s man defenses and its attempts to trap, constantly setting up his teammates in good spots to create offense.

Andra’ McKee, Independence: Named Patriots’ most outstanding player, McKee had a team-high 20 points, making 7-of-14 shots. He added three rebounds and two steals.

Jayden Gardner, Wake Forest Heritage: Named the Huskies’ most outstanding player, the East Carolina signee had a game-high 30 points on 10-for-19 shooting. Gardner, a 6-foot-7 forward, also had 13 rebounds and an assist.

OBSERVATIONS

▪ Two players for Heritage - 6-5 freshman Redford Dunton and 6-7 senior Dow Dunton - could’ve played for Hough this season. Dow Dunton played his junior year at Hough before the brothers moved with their family to the Raleigh area. Redford attended Bailey Middle School, which is a Hough High feeder school. Redford, the freshman, started for the Huskies Saturday

▪ When Gardner left the game in the final minute, his teammates stood and gave him an ovation. The large contingent of Heritage fans stood and gave him an ovation. Across the court, Independence’s fans stood, too - a classy sign of appreciation for Gardner’s outstanding performance. At times, Gardner was the only player who could get anything going for Heritage.

▪ Independence’s zone forced Heritage into 41 percent shooting. Heritage made 4-of-18 3-point shots. Virginia Tech recruit Jarren McAllister had 16 points and five rebounds, but was unable to put his imprint onto the game. Independence kept the game at its pace and kept Heritage away from the lead, like a good boxer with a good jab.

THEY SAID IT

“It feels good man. I’m in eleventh grade. I’m trying to be back here next year. It feels very good.” -- Independence’s McKee.

“It’s five guys communicating, filling in lanes. If someone helps, the other person goes to the spot where that dude left. It’s just us communicating and buying in and playing hard. It’s a basic (zone).” - Independence’s Burton, explaining his team’s defensive success.

 

Photos from Independence’s state final win

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Independence’s Jamarius Burton, right, tangles on the floor with a loose ball against Wake Forest Heritage’s Jarren McAllister during Saturday evening's NCHSAA 4A state basketball championship game at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill. Diedra Laird dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

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Independence #4 Raja Milton, right, steals the ball from Heritage #32 Jarren McAllister during Saturday evening's NCHSAA state basketball championship 4A game between Independence and Wake Forest Heritage at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill. Diedra Laird dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

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Independence # 4 Raja Milton shoots against Heritage # 3 Dyson Pender during Saturday evening's NCHSAA state basketball championship 4A game between Independence and Wake Forest Heritage at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill. Diedra Laird dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

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Independence # 2 Jamarius Burton shoots against Heritage #40 Jayden Gardner during Saturday evening's NCHSAA state basketball championship 4A game between Independence and Wake Forest Heritage at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill. Diedra Laird dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

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Independence # 3Jordan Mobley shoots against Heritage #10 Tre Waller during Saturday evening's NCHSAA state basketball championship 4A game between Independence and Wake Forest Heritage at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill. Diedra Laird dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

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Independence players celebrate winning the state championship over Heritage after Saturday evening's NCHSAA state basketball championship 4A game between Independence and Wake Forest Heritage at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill. Diedra Laird dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

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Independence players celebrate winning the state championship over Heritage after Saturday evening's NCHSAA state basketball championship 4A game between Independence and Wake Forest Heritage at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill. Diedra Laird dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

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Independence players celebrate winning the state 4A boys’ basketball championship over Wake Forest Heritage at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill. Diedra Laird dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

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Independence players celebrate winning the state championship over Heritage after Saturday evening's NCHSAA state basketball championship 4A game between Independence and Wake Forest Heritage at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill. Diedra Laird dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

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Independence players celebrate winning the state championship over Heritage after Saturday evening's NCHSAA state basketball championship 4A game between Independence and Wake Forest Heritage at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill. Diedra Laird dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

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Independence players celebrate winning the state championship over Heritage after Saturday evening's NCHSAA state basketball championship 4A game between Independence and Wake Forest Heritage at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill. Diedra Laird dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

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Independence HIgh won the state title last season and is among area favorites to return to the title game next March. Diedra Laird dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

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Independence players celebrate winning the state championship over Heritage after Saturday evening's NCHSAA state basketball championship 4A game between Independence and Wake Forest Heritage at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill. Diedra Laird dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

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Independence players celebrate winning the state championship over Heritage after Saturday evening's NCHSAA state basketball championship 4A game between Independence and Wake Forest Heritage at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill. Diedra Laird dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

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Independence players including # 1 Matt Smith celebrate winning the state championship over Heritage after Saturday evening's NCHSAA state basketball championship 4A game between Independence and Wake Forest Heritage at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill. Diedra Laird dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

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Independence players celebrate winning the state championship over Heritage after Saturday evening's NCHSAA state basketball championship 4A game between Independence and Wake Forest Heritage at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill. Diedra Laird dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

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