AHEAD OF THE PACK- Tiger guard Michael Otkins streaks down the court to score on a fast break assisted by forward Melvin Baker. Photo by Matthew Roy.
By Jesse Brooks
GREENSBURG- Fresh off of finishing as Runners Up in the Tangipahoa Parish Tournament, Independence boys basketball (8-2) dismantled St. Helena (5-6) with a final score of 61-45 on Monday, December 18.
Though the Hawks were the first to hand them a loss this season, Independence held the edge in the second meeting between the two teams by producing more scoring runs with a balanced offensive attack.
Senior forward Melvin Baker, who led all scorers with 22 points, capped off a 7-3 scoring run for the Tigers with a slam dunk to open the game. Senior Hawks forward Troy Hurst responded with a couple of buckets of his own to cut into the Tigers’ 15-12 lead at 4:06 in the first quarter, but Independence would stay on top after back-to-back 3-pointers from Kelvin Barnes and Jaden Howard to keep the Tigers on top 21-17 at the end of the opening period.
The Tigers went on a 7-0 scoring run to open the second quarter, and looked to hold the momentum for the remainder of the first half. Hawks guard Kedron Martin killed the run by hitting an open 3-pt. shot with 3:51 left in the second quarter to leave the Tigers’ lead at 28-20.
The Tigers ended the first half on an 8-0 run in a sequence that included: a pair of fouls shots from De’Angelo Gaines, a Baker rebound turned into fast break assist to Michael Otkins and back-to-back buckets by Baker just outside the paint.
Senior Tigers Forward Melvin Baker led all scorers with 22 points. Photo by Matthew Roy.
“We came into the night without our starting point guard, who had a death in the family, so that put one of our wing guys up top and got him off the bench early,” said Tigers Coach Ace Misita explaining the lineup of shooters on the floor for the first half. “That actually improved our shooting from up top. Jaden Howard is our best shooter and he hit a couple early.”
The Hawks attempted to rally in the second half as a steal-and-score by Martin capped a 6-2 run to cut into a 38-26 deficit. However, Gaines singlehandedly put the Tigers on a 10-0 run in response with a pair of foul shots, two 3-pointers and a put back. Gaines finished the night with 18 points total.
Tiger guard De’Angelo Gaines scored 18 points in the 61-45 win over St. Helena. Photo by Matthew Roy.
“Gaines brings us shooting and he’s long and can get to the rim,” Misita said. “Defensively, he is our heart and soul. He was in the back of that 1-3-1 zone working his tail off. He doesn’t complain. He just works and works. He’s really the anchor of our defense.”
The Hawks went on another run in the fourth quarter to come within 55-40 with 3:43 in regulation, but Baker put those dreams to rest by slamming down a score on a cleanup at the two minute mark to put the Tigers up 57-40. Despite the last ditch fight in the Hawks, the hole was to deep to dig out of.
Martin led the Hawks in scoring with a total of 19 points. Photo by Matthew Roy.
Both teams are headed into the winter break with hopes of starting January off on a good note. The Hawks will look to get back to .500 on Monday, January 8 in a road game with Mentorship Academy, and the Tigers will kickoff District 9-2A at home against Northlake Christian on Tuesday, January 9.