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TU falls to 1-loss Independence in 2OT

12:00 AM, Jan. 21, 2013 EST

Tulare Union's Keith Mitchell, right, plays tight defense against Independence's Isaiah Henderson during the 2nd Annual 2013 Martin Luther King Jr. Showcase at Dr. S. Thomas Porter Field house in Visalia on Monday. / Rhea Quitasol

The second Martin Luther King Jr. Showcase may not have had the glamorous appeal of last year's inaugural event when Tulare County supremacy was on the line.

But Monday's six-game event sure didn't come up short in terms of dramatic finishes, as the day's final game was a tale of saving the best for last.

In a game worthy of its own distinct highlight tape -- a parade of dunks, a stirring fourth-quarter comeback, a miraculous shot, swarming pressure defense -- the Independence Falcons posted a 77-75 double-overtime win over the Tulare Union Redskins at the College of the Sequoias' Porter Field House.

How this game will go down as one of the defining games of the 2012-13 Tulare County boys basketball season starts with how Tulare Union (15-4) appeared just to be an Independence run away from being on the wrong end of a 25-point-plus rout.

Independence was up 26-12 early in the second quarter, and there wasn't much going wrong in the Falcons' game plan. Independence's unrelenting defensive pressure forced 13 Redskin turnovers over the first 10 minutes of the game.

But the Falcons' dominance proved to be flimsy.

The Redskins closed the gap to 33-23 at halftime, and the deficit was down to 49-43 by the end of the third quarter.

The energy that the Falcons demonstrated with their pressure defense inexplicably vanished, an absence that didn't escape Independence coach Stan Davis. Davis decried to his team during a fourth-quarter timeout that there was only one team who still wanted to play this game, and it wasn't the Falcons.

The message didn't exactly hit home with the Falcon players. The Redskins ended the fourth quarter with an 11-4 run.

Tulare Union junior Jalen Love launched a 3-pointer that sailed through the net with one second on the clock to force overtime.

"An amazing comeback. Our kids showed a tremendous amount of courage and effort," Tulare Union coach Mark Hatton said. "They were behind for the first three quarters, but they did not let that get to them. They played with a lot of heart to get back in this game."

Although they should have no critics when it comes to their resolve they demonstrated all game, the Redskins will lament a missed opportunity to win the game during the first overtime.

The Redskins were up 70-65 with less than a minute remaining.

Independence narrowed the Redskins' lead to 70-67 with 35 seconds left, and it forced a turnover on the Redskins' ensuing possession. The Falcons' D.J. Reed nailed a game-tying 3-pointer with 13 seconds left, and Tulare Union was unable to get a quality shot off in order to pull out the win.

"This (loss) was on me," Hatton said. "At the end of (the first) overtime, I should have called timeout. I trusted the guards not to turn the ball over, but I should have called timeout. That was my fault."

The Falcons scored seven unanswered points over a 2:15 stretch in the second overtime to build a 77-72 lead with 3.6 seconds left.

Tulare Union senior Keonta Vernon made a compelling argument that he was the top player in the six-game event. Vernon finished with 34 points, 22 rebounds, seven blocks and four steals. Love finished with 17 points, and Oscar Reyes added 12 points.

Independence (20-1), who is battling Mission Oak for the No. 1 seed in the Central Section Division III playoff bracket, had five players in double figures. Jon Moore had a team-high 21 points for the Falcons.




Boys Basketball

Rank School Record
1 Mission Oak High School
Tulare, CA
2 El Diamante HS
Visalia, CA
3 Mt. Whitney High School
Visalia, CA
4 Redwood High School
Visalia, CA
5 Central Valley Christian School
Visalia, CA