Despite Friday’s 47-46 loss to Gaffney, the Clover High School boys’ basketball team remained in a position to win the Region 3-AAAA championship entering this week’s play.
The Blue Eagles played at cross-county rival Fort Mill on Tuesday after the Enquirer-Herald deadline.
Clover steps out of region play Friday at home against Shelby High, just north of the S.C.-N.C. border.
The game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Clover main gym, after the Clover-Shelby girls’ game, which begins at 6 p.m.
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The Blue Eagles had the advantage against Gaffney until the final seconds, leading 39-29 to start the fourth quarter; but the Indians converted a pair of free throws with five seconds left to eke out the regional win.
The visiting Blue Eagles assumed control in the first half, building a 14-9 advantage in the first quarter and expanding that lead to 13 at 29-16 at halftime.
Gaffney sliced the lead to 10 after the third quarter and used an 18-7 fourth-quarter run to win by a single point.
Earlier in the week, the Blue Eagles continued their success in the region by defeating Nation Ford 54-46 at Clover.
Quise Robbins, a 6-foot-1 sophomore guard, paced the scoring for Clover with 13 points. Clover’s 6-foot-5 sophomore post player, Aaron Milner, also finished in double figures with 11 points.
Nation Ford had success early, outscoring Clover 13-10 in the first quarter and building the lead to 28-22 at halftime.
The Blue Eagles came alive in the third quarter and led 35-34 to start the fourth. The Eagles then finished strong, outscoring Nation Ford 19-12 in the fourth quarter to win by eight points.
Rounding out balanced scoring for Clover were John Wilson, who scored nine points; R. J. Moore, seven; Justin White, five; Bryce Allen, four; Dallas Honeycutt, three; and Austin Stone, two.
Robbins made three 3-pointers for the Blue Eagles, Wilson had two and Honeycutt nailed one.
After Thursday afternoon practice, Blue Eagles head coach Bailey Jackson said there was a lot to overcome to defeat Nation Ford in a crucial region game.
“Nation Ford was the game we were worried about,” said Jackson. “We had a great game at York prior to the Nation Ford game, a lot of emotions in that game.”
Jackson said the visiting Falcons posed a serious threat from three-point range.
“They hit 12 threes,” he said. “We turned the game around in the third quarter and pulled it out. I’m happy with the win.”
Jackson said the Blue Eagles have emphasized defensive pressure this season.
“We try to take away what they want to do,” he said. “We held Nation Ford, York and Rock Hill to 46 points and Northwestern and Gaffney to 47 the last five games, so we’re playing pretty good defense.”
While defense has been a significant factor in the Blue Eagles’ rise to the top of the region this season, Jackson said he likes the team’s diverse makeup.
“We have a lot of seniors but four that play a lot of minutes,” he said. “The rest are juniors and sophomores. Our JV team has lost only one game in the conference.”
Knowing the state playoffs are approaching, Jackson said, the Blue Eagles focus on one game at a time. “We try to go 1-0 every time we play; that’s been our thing all season,” said Jackson.
Senior post player Stone said he is excited about the Blue Eagles’ contender status.
“I feel good about the way we’ve played,” he said. “I think the key has been playing as a team. We know about ourselves and we knew we could be good this season.”
“The seniors and the younger players are coming together like we need to,” Stone said. “We take the region games one at a time.”