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Defense helps Clover Eagles to playoff win in girls basketball

The Clover defense served two purposes in Friday's 48-39 victory over Wren in the second-round of the Class-AAAA state playoffs.

First of all, the Eagles' defense yielded only 11 first-half points and allowed Clover to open up a comfortable 14-point lead at the half, 25-11.

After increasing that margin to 18, the Eagles' defense served another purpose. Clover, which committed 10 fourth-quarter turnovers, was able to halt a late Wren rally with several crucial stops down the stretch.

Overall, the Clover defense yielded only 10 field goals, with five of those coming from beyond the 3-point arc.

"Tonight, we knew that we needed to play good defense to win," Eagles guard Aaliyah Knox said. "In our last game, our defense was not up to par and we knew that we had to get better tonight in order to win."

Clover forward Lauren Richardson echoed those thoughts.

"We stress defense in each practice, especially the practice coming up to this game," Richardson said. "We watched a lot of film and we made sure to be where we needed to be. We wanted to be in the right position."

The Eagles' defense was complimented with a balanced offensive attack, led by senior Bria Huffman, who scored 17.

Huffman drained a jumper and then connected with another 3-pointer for a 34-13 lead with 2:05 remaining in the third.

Wren turned the tide with a full-court defensive strategy. Forcing two straight Clover turnovers, the Golden Hurricanes pulled to within 14 at 34-20 by the end of the third quarter.

Clover opened the fourth with a Huffman jumper and Knox layup to go back ahead by 18 at 38-20.

However, Addie Merritt got hot for Wren with two 3-pointers, which sparked a 10-2 run and pull to within 10 at 40-30, with 3:44 remaining.

The Eagles called timeout and went to a delay strategy, which forced Wren players to foul during a late comeback attempt. Clover responded at the free-throw line and was able to put the game out of reach.

"We knew that they are a good team and good teams make runs," Clover coach Sherer Hopkins said in reference to the late Wren comeback attempt.

Golden Hurricanes coach Lynn Hicks said that her team came out flat.

"We are supposed to play like that for four quarters," Hicks said about the fourth-quarter rally. "We just were outplayed on the court, and they brought more emotion and intensity.

"We were too lackadaisical and you have to be better than that against a team like that."

Clover, which improved to 21-4, will host Dutch Fork, which were 59-43 winners over J.L. Mann on Friday night, on Monday in the third round of the state playoffs.

Wren ends the season at 21-6.

Clover 48, Wren 39

Wren

4

2

9

19

--

39

Clover

9

16

9

14

--

48

Wren -- Adie Merritt 18, Moriah Reeves 4, Nakol Franks 6, Danielle Matthews 7, Victoria Everhart 2, Allie Wagner 2.

Clover -- Aaliyah Knox 9, Telliya Patton 2, Gadson Leftt 9, Bria Huffman 17, Lauren Richardson 8, Logan Ballard 3.

3-pointers -- Clover 1 (Leftt 1), Wren 5 (Merritt 4, Franks 1). Team fouls -- Wren 19, Clover 11. Fouled out-- None.

Records: Wren 21-6; Clover 21-4.

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