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Patriots rally for OT victory

Register-Herald - 4/10/2021

Apr. 10—Though they no longer play in the same classification, the rivalry between Independence and Liberty still burns bright.

That was on display Friday as the Raiders, playing in their first game since March 16 due to a coronavirus outbreak at the school, fell just short in their return to the court, dropping an 80-79 overtime thriller against the Patriots in Glen Daniel.

Despite being off the court for nearly a month, it would've been hard for anyone in attendance to tell.

Liberty's A.J Williams scored 14 of his game-high 37 points in the first quarter, helping his team to a 26-17 lead at the end of the first quarter. That lead eventually expanded to 30-17, a double-digit advantage that put the hosts in position to run away with the contest, but Indy had other plans.

"We came out very flat," Indy head coach Mike Green said. "We played at PikeView the night before last and our energy was up. I truly thought we would come out the same way, but three of our top five were just flat and not engaged and it showed. We made some substitutions halfway through the first quarter and the intensity picked up a little bit."

Behind the efforts of Michael McKinney and Zach Bolen, the Patriots ended the second quarter on a 17-6 run, trailing 36-34 going into the intermission.

After the break it was more of the same as the Raiders took a 50-49 lead after the third, but the fourth was when the stars on both sides shined.

After being held to just six points in the middle quarters, Williams scored nine points in the fourth; Bolen had 10 of his 30 in the quarter.

Williams' contributions — a three-point play and an offensive rebound that he finished with a layup — put his team up 63-56 with three minutes left to play, but a 3 from Brady Green and a steal and layup for Bolen helped cut the lead to two with 1:13 left. Later, down four again, Bolen again found himself isolated in the paint and went to work, making it a two-point game once more.

"He's our senior leader and they didn't change up," Green said. "If you play that man-to-man and you spread the floor and put him one-on-one, I'm going to like our chances all night. They never really collapsed until the end, but we were taking what the defense gave us. We just kept going to the well until they tried to stop us.

"It was a bad mismatch for us," Liberty head coach Chad Williams said. "Obviously you want to keep Michael (McKinney) in check and not let him get hot. We did a good job on that, but we'd have a good rotation on Zach and he'd turn around and get loose on us. When we started getting in foul trouble we couldn't help as much as we wanted."

With possession and under 20 seconds to go, the Raiders turned the ball over, keeping hope alive for the Patriots, who capitalized.

With just over 10 seconds left, Green was fouled and canned both free throws, forcing an overtime which further served as a showcase for Bolen and Williams.

The two carried their respective teams offensively, but with Indy trailing 77-75, Bolen took advantage of the adjustments Liberty made in effort to stop him. On a drive, the Raiders helped on Bolen, who kicked out to Jordan James for a 3-pointer that made it 79-78 with 17.3 seconds left. Williams scored his 36th ad 37th points with 10 seconds remaining, beating Indy's full-court defense to do so, but after the ensuing inbound play, McKinney was fouled before he crossed half court.

The junior capitalized, canning both free throws. Liberty had one more look at an open trey at the top of the key, but the shot rattled in and out, preserving the win for Indy.

"Yesterday we spent a lot of time on free throws," Green said. "Every player had to make five free throws in a row before we left practice. We shot terrible the night before that at PikeView, shooting 15-of-29. I loved our aggressiveness getting to the line though. Tonight I think we were 21-of-25 and we talk concentration for a reason. They're called free throws for a reason and as long as you concentrate and your mind's right, we're good enough to shoot well from the line. We put an emphasis on it in practice and it showed and paid off."

Independence will play Wyoming East Saturday. Liberty ends its regular season at 5-1, with the remainder of its regular season games canceled.


Zach Bolen 30, Michael McKinney 10, Cyrus Goodson 16, Brady Green 8, Carter Adkins 2, AJ Zilinski 2, Jordan James 8, Corey Shumate 2.


AJ Williams 37, Braden Howell 19, Adam Drennen 8, Trey Tabor 3, Adam McGhee 10, Conner Cantley 2.

I: 17 17 15 19 12 — 80

L: 26 10 14 18 11 — 79

3-point goals — I: 5 (James 2, McKinney, Green 2): L: 4 (Williams, Tabor, McGhee 2). Fouled out — I: Goodson, Green, L: Drennen.


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