CHARLOTTE – Royce Jarrett hadn’t hit a 3-pointer all night long, but when the Ardrey Kell senior found himself with the ball in his hands on March 2 and the clock expiring, he knew what to.
The play was ingenious by coach Mike Craft, as the Independence defense had focused on stopping star Luke Stankavage from beating them.
Despite constant pressure and some questionable no calls when he seemed to be fouled, Stankavage was great and led the team with 22 points.
With the game hanging in the balance and the Knights down 64-62 with just over seven seconds, Craft drew up the winning play in the huddle that called for Stankavage to be more of a decoy than the one taking the final shot although he’d made three 3-pointers already.
“Luke really got hot there. He banked one in in overtime, but he stepped up for us in the second half,” Craft said. “He does it every game. They can’t call all of the fouls on him, but he never complains, never gets down and never gets frustrated. He gets the ball the next time down and goes. He’s a warrior.
“He looked at me like I was crazy when I told him to throw the ball in for that play, but they were guarding him like crazy. Evan (Smith) made a heads-up play and Royce nailed it.”
Jarrett found himself alone in the corner and calmly swished the 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded with Independence star Matt Smith fully extended as he leaped to block the shot.
“I can’t take any credit for that,” Jarrett said. “ My freshman, Evan, made a heads-up play because they were D-ing up Luke all game but he still got his buckets. But you know, you have to point to the man upstairs. That was all God.”
To get to that point took some resiliency.
The Knights started strong, but found themselves down 10 points at the half.
That’s when Stankavage and his senior buddies took over.
Kam Flynn and Christian Pickens combined for seven first half points, but the two scored the first Ardrey Kell points of the second half that closed the 10-point deficit to two points just minutes into the second half.
Pickens had 14 of his 17 points after the break while Flynn finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds after posting four points in the first half.
The Knights would get their first lead at 43-42 since they led 9-8 early, but Independence would regain the advantage until a Pickens and-one foul and free throw put Ardrey Kell up one late in regulation. The Patriots would answer and appear to win the game until Flynn was fouled late and made one of two free throws to force overtime.
The Patriots jumped out early in the overtime session and led 63-59, but the Knights would score the final five points including Jarrett’s heroic 3-pointer.
“I think our whole team is resilient,” Craft said. “We were dead in the water in overtime. Pickens was huge in the third quarter. He made a heck of a shot to put us up one in regulation. We defended well at times. They have a heck of a team and an unbelievable two-year run, but we got stops when we needed to on them.
“To come here and win, that’s tough. This is a tough place to play but we were resilient.”
The Knights will need that resilience as they take on West Charlotte on March 5.