CLOVER — There was a lot of interest in the matchup pitting Clover and Fort Mill against each other Friday night and it didnt have to do with just the players.
Former Fort Mill coach Bailey Jackson coached against the school he took to a state title in the 2006-07 season for the first time since becoming coach at Clover this year. Before the game, Jackson was recognized for recently winning his 200th career game, with most of those coming while he was at Fort Mill.
However, once the game started, it was all about the players on the hardwood.
Foul shots down the stretch gave Fort Mill the 66-58 win as it held on in the fourth quarter. The Jackets were led by senior Harrison Lancaster, who scored 28, as the team went 27-for-34 from the free-throw line, including 19-of-23 in the fourth quarter. Senior Rylan Wells went 12-for 14 in the game. Most of those came in the final quarter. He added 16 for the Jackets.
They made a game of it by getting to the foul line, said Fort Mill coach Dwayne Hartsoe. We did make some big free throws down the stretch. It was a good win, but we still got a lot to work on.
Holding a 16 point lead to start the fourth, Fort Mill played as if it was behind as the Blue Eagles quickly cut the Jackets lead to 11 by starting on a 6-1 run to make it 46-35.
The Jackets struggled with ball handling early, turning it over three times early in the quarter.
Jackson was vintage, keeping fresh legs on the court by subbing in five at a time. Jackson said that he didnt prepare any different for the game just because he was playing Fort Mill.
We played with no intensity in the second and third quarter, he said. And that is my fault. But I was proud of their effort. They turned a blowout into a close game.
Fort Mill tried to drain the clock as much as it could to keep a 10-point lead, but turnovers kept it off balanced for part of the fourth quarter. Clovers Taylor Hoover drained a 3-pointer with 2:30 left to cut the Jackets lead to 50-42.
Clover kept shooting 3-pointers to cut the Jackets lead even more, but had to start fouling to get the ball back. The Blue Eagles Bryce Allen cut the game to six points at 58-52 with 37 seconds left on a Clover 3-pointer.
However, it was the Fort Mill foul shooting that closed the door down the stretch.
Fort Mill opened the third quarter as it did the second on a run. The Jackets started on an 8-1 run and went up 35-16 to open the second half. Clover switched to a full-court press to try and slow things down. The action worked as Fort Mill turned the ball over, but then the Jackets started to kill the clock by moving the ball around.
Fort Mill shifted into another gear midway through the third quarter as it started forcing Clover turnovers, and quickly went up 41-20.
Fort Mill did struggle in the third by getting in foul trouble, which put Clover into the bonus with three minutes left in the third. That helped the Blue Eagles to a 6-0 run.
The Jackets opened the second quarter on a 9-0 run and took the score from tied at 11 after the first to 20-11 as Fort Mills defense kept Clover off balance to start.
Fort Mill on the other end attacked the baseline and went to the hole to get the easy baskets. Fort Mill also did a better job of rebounding in the second quarter to slow down the Blue Eagles attack.
Clover went 2-for-8 from the field in the second quarter and never went to the line.
On the other side, Fort Mill shot just under 50 percent for the quarter and went to the line six times.
Both teams started out pretty evenly matched up. Both had trouble shooting and Clover had four early turnovers that Fort Mill was unable to take advantage of.
Clover got several second-chance opportunities and outrebounded Fort Mill. Clover went for the high-percentage shots and converted them.
The Jackets stayed with Clover with 3-pointers, which they hit 2-of-7 for in the opening quarter.
Fort Mill 66, Clover 58
Fort Mill Harrison Lancaster 28, Rylan Wells 16, John Paris 8, Mitchell Johnson 5, Preston Jordan 5, Matt Ferguson 2, Mike Scurlock 2. Clover Taylor Hoover 12, Alex Thompson 12, Arnaldo Toro 10, Bryce Allen 9, Mark Cavanaugh 5, RJ Moore 3, Jevon Blake 2, Ladarius Adams 2, Raekwon Armstrong 2, John Wilson 1.
3-pointers Fort Mill 3 (Lancaster 3), Clover 4 (Allen 3, Hoover 1); Team fouls: Fort Mill 21, Clover 23; Fouled out: Ladarius Adams (C)
Records: Fort Mill 7-7, 2-2 Region III-AAAA; Clover 7-6, 1-3 Region III-AAAA.