Independence High didn’t let up Wednesday night against South, even with two of the Rebels’ top players absent.
The top-seeded Falcons cruised into the Central Section Division III championship game at Fresno’s Selland Arena with a 69-17 domination of fifth-seeded South.
Independence (31-1) will face second-seeded Tulare-Mission Oak, which downed Visalia-Mount Whitney 67-46, in a 4 p.m. game Saturday. It is the Falcons’ first appearance in a boys basketball section title game in the school’s history.
“The girls did it last year and we’re trying to follow in their footsteps,” Independence coach Stan Davis said.
South (17-9) was missing its two big men, Ryan Reagor and Joshua Jackson, who Rebels coach Brian Carter said were suspended from the team for disciplinary reasons.
The swarming Independence defense took it from there. South had 32 turnovers and Independence had a 50-point lead by the third quarter. The Falcons pulled their starters early in the third quarter and the fourth quarter was played with a running clock.
“We were really excited to play South,” Davis said. “I’m so disappointed for them and the school (to lose Reagor and Jackson). It’s such an unfortunate thing.”
Davis said he found out the two South big men weren’t going to play Wednesday morning when Carter called him.
“We’d heard rumors but they just went straight by the book,” Davis said. “All schools should follow that model.”
Carter called it “a disciplinary action we had to take.”
“Rules were broken and it wasn’t something we were going to sweep under the rug,” Carter said
The two players’ absences were costly.
“If you look at their averages, you’re looking at 40 points and 21 rebounds a game,” Carter said. “And not to mention it changes our system and what we’re able to do.”
Independence pressured the Rebels all over the floor. The Falcons led 14-7 at the end of the first quarter and broke it open with a 25-2 second quarter.
“I told our guys they’re going to pressure you,” Carter said. “And especially without our bigs. They really got after us because they didn’t have to worry about the inside.”
“It really didn’t affect us that much,” said Independence junior guard Isaac Clark, who had a game-high 19 points. “We knew we had to play the same way whether they’re there or not. We take pride in our defense and we wanted to make a statement about our next game.”
Junior guard Derek Check added 14 points and senior guard Jonathan Moore scored 10.
Independence had some turnover issues of its own, with seven in the first quarter and 13 in the first half.
“We were a little sloppy with the ball for a big part of the first half,” Davis said.
Independence guard D.J. Reed was also suspended for disciplinary reasons, Davis said. Reed’s name wasn’t listed on the roster handed out to fans prior to the game.