Bailey Jackson believes playing tough opponents will help prepare the Clover High School boys’ basketball team for a grinding slate of games in Region 3-AAAA.
Such was the case when Gastonia Ashbrook visited Clover last week in a non-region game, and prevailed 58-49 over the Blue Eagles.
The Clover boys battled Ashbrook on even terms in the first half before the visitors from across the border were able to pull away in the second half to secure the win.
“Ashbrook is the best team we’ve played this year,” Jackson after the game. “We carried out the game plan. There were times when a lack of execution and missed free throws worked against us.”
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Though he was disappointed in the loss, Jackson said he was pleased with the gritty effort against high-flying Ashbrook.
“We closed the gap in the fourth quarter after falling behind by nine points,” he said. “I am proud of our kids.”
Consecutive baskets by senior mainstays RJ Moore and Bryce Allen sliced Ashbrook’s lead to four at 44-40 with just over five minutes left in the game.
“We played well at times and had trouble at the free throw line,” said Allen, who is among the best pure shooters in the region.
“I didn’t feel my rhythm tonight, but it happens,” Allen said. “There will be other games when the shots will fall.”
Allen said the team’s scheduled has prepared the players for region play. “We have the team to get it done,” he said.
The Blue Eagles fell behind in the early stages of the game, but battled back to lead 20-18 at the conclusion of the first quarter.
Once again, it was Moore and Allen leading the surge with back-to-back scores.
The second quarter was much of the same, with the teams trading baskets and the intensity level rising.
With Aaron Milner and John Wilson contributing, the Blue Eagles led 25-20 midway through the second quarter.
With Clover trailing 29-26 moments before the half, Moore hit another clutch shot, slicing the lead to a single point at 29-28.
The teams traded baskets in the final seconds of the half, with Ashbrook taking a 31-30 lead to the locker room.
“Ashbrook has more talent than some of the teams in our region,” Jackson said. “Playing a tough schedule makes us better.”
The Blue Eagles also lost a closely-contested game to Hunter Huss Friday as Huss pulled away in the fourth quarter for the 47-43 win.
The Blue Eagles play at Nation Ford Friday, with tipoff for the Region 3-AAAA game slated for 8 p.m. Preceeding the boys’ action will be the girls’ varsity game at 6:30 p.m. The CHS junior varsity girls will get things started at 5 p.m. against Nation Ford.