Ardrey Kell nips Independence in 64-59 win

Phenom Hoops travelled to Charlotte, North Carolina to cover the matchup between Southwestern 4A power Independence and So. Meck 8 Ardrey Kell. Independence and Ardrey Kell teams are well coached and bring some of the top coaching resumes in the state. Coach Preston Davis has won 20 plus game for the past four years and won the NCHSAA 4A state championship for the 2017-18 basketball season. Coach Mike Craft led Ardrey Kell to the NCHSAA 4A state championship game in 2014-15 and has won 23 games each the past two seasons. 

For coach Preston Davis, the 2019-20 will be a transition year. He lost four starters who have gone on to play at the collegiate level, Matthew Smith (Murray State), AJ McKee (Queens), Tyler Harris (Western Carolina), and Raja Milton (Louisburg). In addition, he has played one of the state’s toughest schedules. Entering the game, Independence came in with a 2-3 record with loses to North Mecklenburg, who is considered one of the best teams in the state regardless of affiliation, Davidson Day and Concord First Assembly, which are two of the favorites to win their classification in the NCISAA. 

For coach Mike Craft, he returns the majority of his roster from the previous season, but did lose double digit scorers Christian Pickens and Kam Flynn to graduation. They return their leading scorer Luke Stankavage, improving Davidson Hubbard, and promising sophomore Evan Smith. Look for Ardrey Kell to compete with Olympic High School for the So. Meck 7 4A conference title. Ardrey Kell came into the contest with a 3-1 record with their lone loss coming to a very good Cannon team that will also compete for the NCISAA 4A state championship.

The game was close start to finish as both teams traded leads several times in the first half. Independence led Ardrey Kell 18-17 after the first quarter and Ardrey Kell returned the favor by taking a one point 40-39 lead into the half. Midway through the third quarter, Ardrey Kell went on a run and took an eight-point lead 53-45 into the fourth quarter. Trailing 61-59, Independence had several good looks and opportunities to tie the game with approximately thirty seconds remaining, but couldn’t get it to fall. Ardrey Kell then proceeded to knock down three free throws in the final seconds to secure the 64-61 win. Now, let’s take a closer look at the standouts from the game. 

6’3 Sr. Luke Stankavage (Ardrey Kell) 

After having two outstanding performances at the Charlotte Hoops Challenge, Stankavage finished with a game high 27 points. Stankavage is a fundamentally sound, has a high basketball IQ, and has one of the better midrange games in the state. He moves well without the ball and had a huge second half (16 points) to secure the win.

6’5 Sr. Nygell Verdier (Independence)

Verdier is a strong, active and athletic point guard with size. He finished the game with 18 points and just continues to get better and better each and every outing. Verdier demonstrated good ball handling skills, passing skills and defends extremely well. A definite scholarship available point guard. 

6’5 Davidson Hubbard (Ardrey Kell)

Hubbard is the jack of all trades type player. He can score a variety of ways in the post, step out and hit the midrange, has good passing skills for his position and more importantly can rebound and block shots. Hubbard finished with 14 points.

5’10 Sr. Anthony Allen (Independence)

The quick on quick scoring combo guard has a super quick first step, is excellent of the catch and has a quick release. Allen is an energy guy and can also be a superb on ball defender. Allen finished with 13 points.

6’7 Jr. Peyton Gerald (Ardrey Kell)

Gerald knows his role extremely well. He rebounds and defends his position, and also provides needed length in the paint. Gerald only scored five points, but was active on both ends of the court. 

6’7 Jr. Omarion Bodrick (Independence)

We’ve said it before and we will say it again, Bodrick is one of the few players in the state that can affect the game without scoring a single point. We had him down unofficially for eight block shots. He did score four points, but his rebounding and shot blocking ability are on another level for his size/position.