CHARLOTTE – Raja Milton did it again for Independence.
After scoring all of Indy’s points in overtime in a 58-57 win over Carmel Christian on Jan. 19, the senior point guard scored nine of his game-high 14 points in the fourth period on Jan. 22 to lead the Patriots to a hard-fought 42-38 victory over Myers Park.
Defending Class 4A state champion Independence has won six-straight games and the Patriots (13-3) stand atop the Southwestern 4A Conference standings with a 7-0 record.
“Anytime you can get a lead in the conference standings and control your own destiny, we will take that,” said Indy head coach Preston Davis. “It was an ugly game, but sometimes you have to win ugly games and find a way to win. We knew this game would be tough but we found a way. But I see things we have to get better at, and we are going to continue to work on those things. Hopefully, the second time around, the conference we will be better at it. We are not done yet.”
Myers Park saw its 10-game winning streak end as the Mustangs are 6-1 in league play and 12-5 overall.
“We would have liked to been able to get that one for sure,” Myers Park head coach Scott Taylor said. “It was a conference home game, so those tend to feel like they weigh a little bit more. But it gives us an idea of where we are and what it looks like for us to finish up the season strong.”
Indy took a 27-22 lead to the fourth period. Mustangs’ Jordan Bly opened the fourth with a 3-pointer and Duwe Farris followed with a layup to tie the game at 27-27 with 6 minutes, 6 seconds left in the contest.
Independence started the fourth with consecutive turnovers and two missed shots, including a dunk attempt, but Milton righted the ship with a three-point play that put the Patriots up 30-27. Indy senior Matt Smith upped the lead to 34-29 with a stickback but the Mustangs’ Caleb McReed hit back-to-back 3-pointers to cut the Patriots’ lead to 36-35 with just over two minutes left.
Milton would hit a pair of layups and Miles Pauldin converted an offensive rebound into two points as the Patriots held off the Mustangs. Milton, who was 6-of-11 from the field, also had eight assists, four rebounds and two steals for the Patriots while Pauldin finished with 10 points.
“Obviously, you don’t want to turn the ball over against a good team like Myers Park,” Davis said. “The one thing that I am proud of is that we did not hang our heads. We didn’t panic when Myers Park made their run. Raja gave us a big lift. We have kids that are capable of making big plays at big times. It was his night again.”
Milton said the Patriots remained poised during the Mustangs’ run that tied the game. The win over Myers Park marked the Patriots’ third win in a five-day stretch.
“We knew we had to come together and be patient because we were in a hostile environment,” Milton said. “We faced a little adversity but we just kept going. We get after it in practice, and we prepare for these types of moments. We are always prepared.”
McReed paced the Mustangs with 13 points, while Farris was also in double figures with 11. Sophomore Drake Maye chipped in nine points.
Independence played Hickory Ridge on Jan. 24, and the Patriots will face Greater Atlanta Christian on Jan. 26 at the Peach Corners Invitational in Norcross, Ga. Greater Atlanta Christian is ranked No. 5 in Class 3A in Georgia by MaxPreps.com.
Myers Park is at Garinger on Jan. 25.
Independence senior Raja Milton came up big for Patriots, especially a steal and layup here that sealed the victory, in a 42-38 win over a very good Myers Park team on Jan. 22. Indy is 7-0 in conference @indybball1967 @IndyBoosters @RajaMilton20 pic.twitter.com/wrc59EMNJC
— @Paul_Nielsen (@wsportspaul) January 23, 2019
Myers Park girls edge Indy
Andrea Shire and Taylor Henderson each hit a pair of free throws the final 42.4 seconds as Myers Park edged Independence 37-34 in the girls’ game.
Henderson finished with 13 points for the Mustangs while Shire added seven points. Emma Harrell scored six points for Myers Park (7-11, 3-3).
Myers Park scored the game’s first 10 points behind a basket and a 3-pointer from Shire. But Independence closed the gap to 14-9 at the end of the first period as Braylyn Milton scored four of her game-high 14 points.
Myers Park led 21-13 at halftime but Indy (7-10, 3-4) cut the lead to 29-28 on a layup by Milton early in the fourth period. The Mustangs then hit 6-of-9 free throws for a 37-32 lead with 14.7 seconds left in the game.