FORT MILL -- After starting the season 9-0, including two region wins and a dominating 58-40 victory over Clover on Tuesday, Fort Mill looks every bit as good as last year's team that won the state championship.
The scores aren't close, and even when the shots from the field aren't falling, the Yellow Jackets simply have too many weapons for most teams in the state. Even though the meat of the region schedule won't come until after Santa visits, Fort Mill is no doubt the team to beat in Region 3-AAAA.
Against Clover, Fort Mill (9-0, 2-0 Region 3-AAAA) took a while to heat up from behind the 3-point arc. Despite shooting just 2-of-9 in the first half, the Jackets turned a 14-11 lead early in the second quarter to a 31-14 lead at the half.
Chalmers Rogers and Cam Smith combined for nine points during the 17-3 run and the streak was capped by a 3-point play, when Garrett Copeland sank a free throw after hitting a layup.
Rogers and Smith not only paced the Jackets during the deciding run, they were the top two scorers on the court, finishing with 17 and 11 points, respectively. Rogers scored the first five points for Fort Mill, including a deep 3-pointer.
The Jackets hit 11-of-12 from the charity stripe, and when they finally heated up from outside, blew the game away.
After Rogers picked up two fouls on blocked shots, the Jackets' other weapons took charge. Torrell Priest and Copeland hit back-to-back 3-pointers as the Jackets added another 18-2 run in the third period, building a 51-19 lead.
With the lead, coach Bailey Jackson rested his starters for all but about 30 seconds of the final period.
The experience for the younger players and respite for his regulars will pay off as the Jackets head to the beach for the Seahawk Classic, a tournament field including Wilson, last season's Class AAA champions, and Summerville, Fort Mill's opponent in last year's state championship game.
"We are looking forward to going to Hilton Head," said Jackson. "We have to get past Wilson first, they are getting better after some of their football players are now playing, but if both teams win out we could end up playing Summerville again.
"We shot poorly in the first half, but our hustle and free throws allowed for some missed shots. Once we started shooting well in the third period, it put the game out of reach."
Clover coach Dudley Lybrand was left looking for answers after the Eagles (4-3, 0-2) shot a dreadful 23 percent from the field, including just 1-of-11 on 3-pointers.
Clover scored 19 points in the fourth period after scoring 21 through the first three. Chris Dunham battled foul trouble to lead the Blue Eagles with eight points and seven rebounds.
"We can't beat many teams with the way we shot the ball tonight," said Lybrand, "much less a team as talented as Fort Mill. There were no positives from tonight's game. We'll get back to work tomorrow and look to put this one behind us."
The Blue Eagles travel to Walhalla for the Apple Classic Holliday Hoops Tournament and an opening matchup with Emerald.