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Fort Mill Yellow Jackets winning with sharpshooters

Dwayne Hartsoe admitted he wasn't quite sure what to expect when he took over the Fort Mill boys basketball team.

Then he showed up for a summer shootaround, and noticed one thing quickly.

Shots kept falling. From long range. And often.

The Yellow Jackets (15-7, 4-2) are playing well this year thanks to their ability to hit from 3-point range, with a three-headed ability to do so.

"We might have minutes where a shot doesn't fall, but we've got enough shooters that it's not going to stay that way for long," Hartsoe said. "I knew there were some players here when I got here, but I didn't know they could shoot it the way they do."

Between Jon Brown, Riley McGillan and Daeqon Antoine, the Jackets have hit 108 threes in 22 games, setting the table for the kind of fast-paced play Hartsoe was hoping for. A year ago, the Jackets were picked as a preseason number one in the state but regressed.

This year they have exceeded expectations, heading into tonight's game at Nation Ford.

The Jackets are led by Jon Brown, who scores at an 18.1 points-per-game clip.

He's the most prolific of their long-range bombers, making 46 of 128 (35.9 percent) from beyond the arc this year.

"When your best player's the one handling the ball, you give him the freedom to shoot it," Hartsoe said. "All the kids here have the green light to shoot. We're not a very big team, so we knew going into the season, as they shoot it is how we're going to go."

Brown laughed and claimed there wasn't a better shooter on the roster, as evidenced by his prowess in their playful pregame shooting drills.

"Yeah, I'm the best shooter of the bunch," Brown said with a laugh. "We've got some good ones around here, but I usually win when we're shooting before games."

Hartsoe said Brown's ability to score in other ways has bought him some room, since he can also drive the ball to score.

His other shooters are contributing as well.

McGillan, the son of Winthrop assistant coach Marty McGillan, is more of a spot-up shooter (31 of 92, 33.7 percent). His dad joked that Riley's mom is still the best shooter in the house, but his son has scored at a substantial rate as well.

Antoine's the shocker of the lot. That he's hit 31 of 71 (43.7 percent) from long distance is one thing. That he wasn't even on the team a year ago adds a layer to the surprise. He was out sick earlier this week, but Brown said keeping his best friend motivated has added to the Jackets offense.

"A year ago, we had so many seniors, you pretty much knew who was going to play," Brown said. "Daeqon let some of the conditioning work go, and wasn't coming to the workouts, so that's why he didn't make the team.

"But I knew we needed him this year, so I stayed on him about the workouts, and he's helped us a lot."

Playing an up-and-down style has its benefits for a team that lacks great size, and Hartsoe said it's an easier transition for him having three guys who can fill it up in a hurry from the perimeter. It's also an energy boost for the crowd, which generally fills up their home gym waiting to see the next bomb from outside.

"It does, it gives us an energy boost when we hit one," Hartsoe said. "The thing about these guys too, I can tell it makes a difference on the other end of the floor as well. When one of them hits a 3, you can see the intensity go up on defense, and that's what's got us where we are right now."