The flurry came quickly, almost quietly, but when it was finished, so was Stockdale.
Independence scored 10 straight points late to squeak by host Stockdale 57-53 on Tuesday in both teams’ Southwest Yosemite League opener.
“We’re not used to being behind, but we reacted good,” said Independence junior Isaac Clark, who scored 15 points. “We weren’t selfish with the ball, we didn’t panic. It’s good to be down and come back.”
When the run started, Stockdale had just taken a 49-46 lead on Chris Ross’ three-point play with just less than five minutes to play.
When it ended, Independence led 56-49 with less than a minute to go and had survived its first league test after an impressive 17-1 non-league campaign.
“Stockdale is a talented, well-coached team,” Independence coach Stan Davis said. “That’s why you saw so much relief on my face when it was over. Both teams play the same way. This time we just happened to go on a little run and get an edge.”
The result was a victory in an opener between teams who came in with a combined 29-3 record and high hopes for a league title.
The game lived up to the hype: There were two ties and five lead changes in the second half, and the game wasn’t sealed until Clark hit a free throw with 7 seconds left to extend Independence’s lead to four. The Falcons had missed their previous four free throws, all in the final minute.
“We talked about how tonight was a spotlight night,” Stockdale coach Oliver Brown said. “We needed to step into that spotlight a little more.”
Stockdale (12-3) briefly took control in the third quarter with an 11-0 run that gave the Mustangs a six-point lead. During the run, Robbie Purdy hit two 3-pointers in one possession (with a missed free throw in between). Keith McCants had 20 points, and Christian Bayne scored 10, including a buzzer-beating floater that gave Stockdale a one-point lead at halftime.
“We just didn’t make enough plays at the end, and they did,”Brown said. “We’ve gotta own it.”
Ross, the Mustangs’ leading scorer, didn’t score until his three-point play broke a 46-46 tie, and he didn’t score again.
“It just wasn’t his night,” Brown said. “I know he wants to play hard for his teammates and he wants to win, but he just didn’t have it tonight.”
D.J. Reed scored 17 points for Independence, including six during the 10-0 run.
Most of their damage was done the same way: On layups and hard drives to the hoop, often off of turnovers.
“We preach, ‘Layups, layups, layups,’” Clark said. “That’s how we like to score our points.”
Independence also scraps, a philosophy that perhaps no one personifies better than freshman forward Malcolm Johnson, who had 11 points and 12 rebounds and a hand in many of Stockdale’s 20 turnovers.
Afterwards, both coaches warned that this was just the first of what they think will be many tight games in the crowded SWYL race.
“Every game is going to be a battle,” Davis said. “We go to (Bakersfield High) on Thursday, and we’ve got to be ready. It’s really hard to say what kind of record is going to take the league, because every team is so tough.”
Stockdale, meanwhile, will head to Centennial looking to get even.
“Thursday is just as important as tonight,” Brown said. “It’s just about moving forward now.”