CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – The Independence Patriots returned to the 4A State Championship Game for the first time since 1997, when they knocked off Richmond County. The second trip to a State Final was a pretty similar picture as the Patriots played solid team basketball on their way to a 71-60 victory over Heritage.
The Patriots never trailed by more than two, which came in the opening minute of play as Huskies’ senior guard Jarren McCallister got Heritage off to a 2-0 lead, but Independence closed the first frame on a 9-2 run, stretching their advantage out to 17-9 at the first quarter break.
Heritage played the Patriots closely, outscoring Independence 15-14 in the second quarter, as things settled into more of a half-court game, but Independence rattled off a pair of threes in the third, with Andra’ McKee and Jordan Mobley connecting to stretch their lead to 13 heading into the fourth, and the Patriots never looked back.
Jayden Gardner kept Heritage in the game the whole way, as the senior committed to East Carolina worked hard in the paint. Gardner scored a game-high 30 points and snatched 13 rebounds, converting 10 of his 11 foul shots. He was named Heritage’s Most Outstanding Player.
Jamarius Burton played a huge role in both the offensive scoring and on the glass for the Patriots. Burton scored 13 on the night, grabbing seven rebounds while dishing out three assists on his way to being named the Charlie Adams 4A Men’s Basketball Championship Game’s Most Valuable Player. Andra’ McKee had a team-high 20 points and grabbed three rebounds as he was named Independence’s Most Outstanding Player.
Heritage finished the season 25-5, champions of the Northern 4A Conference. The Huskies won the Eastern Regional Championship for the first time in school history.
Independence completed the year 31-1, champions of the Southwestern 4A Conference. The Huskies won the Western Regional Championship for the second time in school history, earning the school’s second berth in an NCHSAA Men’s Basketball State Final. The Patriots claimed the school’s second state championship.