CLOVER --Crisp ball movement, defensive tenacity and deadly outside shooting is a formula for success on the basketball court, especially at playoff time.
Such was the case Saturday afternoon as the Clover Blue Eagles defeated Easley 57-54 before a boisterous crowd assembled in the CHS gym. Playing like there's no tomorrow, which is precisely what playoff action is all about, coach Dudley Lybrand's "Fab Five" withstood Easley's comeback effort in the game's final two minutes.
"Our kids made plays," Lybrand said in his postgame observations. "We shot the ball well and had good ball movement."
Playing a Green Wave team that stunned highly-regarded Dorman in opening-round playoff action, the Blue Eagles never trailed in the fiercely contested second-round game.
The CHS boys used balanced scoring and swift ball movement to build a 22-16 halftime advantage.
Key baskets by Alexander Wiley, Josh Clawson and Chris Lindsay highlighted a third-quarter scoring surge that pushed the Blue Eagles ahead 43-34.
Easley cut into Clover's lead in the fourth quarter, with 6-foot-7 center Joel Cook getting more touches and the Green Wave guards finding their range.
A jumper by Joe Graver sliced Clover's lead to a scant three points (45-42) three minutes into the fourth quarter.
After a timeout, the Blue Eagles' defensive intensity forced Easley into a turnover-inducing panic mode.
Clover seized the opportunituy, scoring six unanswered points.
With 49 seconds left in the game, Wiley converted both ends of a 1-and-1, staking the Blue Eagles to a 54-47 lead.
Wiley, who scored a game-high 21 points, continued his clutch free throw shooting in the waning moments to preserve the win.
Lybrand has said all season the Blue Egles rely on solid guard play to win games, and Saturday was no exception.
"Our guard play was real good today, especially making the extra pass," the CHS coach said. "I am proud of our team. It was a big win."
Wiley understands the significance of reliable guard play in the team's offensive scheme.
"We have to nail down the shots," the senior sharpshooter said.
Lindsay did his part in nailing down the shots with 12 points.
Pivotman Clawson and freshman Coady Bauer had steady floor games, each finishing with 11 points.
Clawson said he wasn't surprised when Easley made a run in the waning moments of the game.
"We saw film on them and knew they could score points in a hurry," the senior leader said.
Clover defeated a strong South Pointe team for the third time this season to open the playoffs.
Wiley scored a career-best 28 points, including six 3-pointers as the visiting Blue Eagles prevailed, 58-51.
"South Pointe played well," noted Lybrand. "Alexander shot the ball well and we had enough rebounds to get the job done."
The Blue Eagles were pitted against Northwestern in an Upstate semifinal game Tuesday night at Northwestern The Trojans defeated Westside 51-47 to advance to the semifinal showdown.
Note: Clover's playoff coverage will resume in next week's Enquirer-Herald.