Defense, Gardiner lead Freire to 44-40 win

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Jahyde Gardiner (right) had xx points for Freire in the win. (Photo: Josh Verlin)

Jahyde Gardiner (right) had 23 points for Freire in the win. (Photo: Josh Verlin)

Andrew Koob (@AndrewKoob)

In a tough, drag-it-out game that’s become normal for high school basketball in Philadelphia, defense was the deciding factor for the Freire Charter Dragons as they topped Carver High School of Engineering & Science 44-40.

The Dragons used an 11-4 run that spanned most of the fourth quarter to edge out the Pegasus in a close game. But that doesn’t mean there’s still work to do for Freire.

“Yesterday in practice, we talked about containing our opponent,” Freire coach John Brown said. “We look at everybody that we’re playing and our team goal is to hold our opponents under 32 to 40 points. We told our guys that offensively, we don’t have a problem scoring, but when it comes down to us containing our opponent, that’s where we have a problem. We’ll keep working and, once they understand about applying pressure on the basketball and playing on-ball defense, we’ll get stops.”

Dragons forward Jahyde Gardiner, who finished the game with a game-high 23 points, 10 rebounds and four steals, was the star of the game, scoring seven points during their fourth-quarter run, including a three-pointer with 2:37 left in the game to give Freire the lead for good.

“He’s always going to get his points, get his rebounds, his blocks and steals,” Brown said. “He’s one of our biggest statsheet stuffers. I just want him to, and I say this to him all the time, we need him as our star player, as our franchise player and to play like that. I think he concedes a little bit to the other guys on the floor.

“He’s a sweet kid, very unselfish player and I just tell him that he needs to stop conceding to the other guys on the floor. We’re not going to get frustrated with him if he takes the most shots and if he scores the most points. One thing on this team is, we never tell any of our guys to stop shooting, even our big guys because they can shoot the basketball. With Jahyde, we just want him to step up and make big plays for us and we need that. If he doesn’t, we won’t go too far.”

Gardiner, who said he has drawn interest from programs such as Drexel, Rutgers, USC and Miami, points to the determination and energy that his teammates bring to the court that lets him be the best he can.

“We all love basketball, we breathe basketball,” Gardiner said. “So everyone’s determined to win every game.”

Along with Gardiner, the other bright spot for Freire was the play of junior guard Rashid Nixon. The 6-foot, 170 pound Dragon scored 12 points while grabbing seven rebounds.

According to Brown, Dragons guard Shahid Adams was not feeling well for the game, but he contributed nonetheless with two points, seven rebounds and two assists.

“He does it very quietly and he’s another sweet, brilliant kid,” Brown said. “He plays very hard for us, he controls the floor, but we want him to be more of a defensive presence. When it comes to scoring, between him and Jahyde, they’re our 1-2 guys. The expectations for Shahid are just as much as it is with Jahyde.”

Brown also added that, while there hasn’t been too much official interest being shown in the junior guard, numerous teams have been keeping tabs on him since the beginning of the season.

“We haven’t received too many scouts or colleges interest for him, but we did talk with Rutgers and some other people,” Brown said. “When we sent out our press release, some coaches did respond back, saying that they would be keeping an eye on him. We’re trying to market him as best we can because he’s helluva player.”

Gardiner, Adams and the Dragons hit the court again Friday, December 21st as they travel to play William Penn Charter for a 5:15 PM game.

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