York Comprehensive High School head boys’ basketball coach Michael Dalton said he feels better about the state of the Cougars’ program in his second year at the helm.
There are positives from which to draw in the midst of off-season preparations, not the least of which were the game-type experiences gained during a basketball shootout June 19 in Cougar Country. Held in the YCHS main gym and auxiliary gym, the shootouts drew teams from the county, Upstate and across the border.
Joining the host Cougars were teams from Union, Spartanburg, Rock Hill, East Gaston, Crest and rival Clover.
The York-Clover JV battle was a nail-biter before a noisy crowd in the YCHS auxiliary gym.
“It was a good win for our kids,” said Cougar JV coach Rob Farris after the game. “Our kids played well down the stretch with the game on the line.
“They responded to the challenge.”
The varsity Cougars and Union battled on even terms in the first quarter, finishing in a 7-7 deadlock.
Competing in the shootout without the services of leading scorer DeShaw Andrews, who had other commitments last week, the Cougars gained the lead in the second quarter. A pair of free throws by Trinity Shannon, a basket by Arman Pendergrass and a driving shot to the hoop by Daurice Simpson pushed the Cougars ahead 13-7.
Simpson, a senior standout who averaged 22 points per game last season, continued his free-throw accuracy and knocked down a three-pointer, extending the Cougars’ lead to 20-12.
A basket by TayWaun Neely expanded the second-quarter lead to 10 at 22-12.
The Cougars maintained a workable lead throughout the third quarter.
After Union scored several baskets to slice the lead to four points at 22-18, York’s Ben Spratley scored on a nice feed from Simpson.
Spratley and Simpson closed out the third-quarter scoring, with Simpson’s reverse layup moving the Cougars ahead 32-24.
Spratley scored to open the fourth quarter, staking the surging Cougars to a 34-24 advantage. But the visiting Yellow Jackets became the aggressor the remainder of the quarter, slicing the lead to 36-35.
With 17.2 seconds showing on the scoreboard clock, Simpson converted a pair of free throws to preserve the win.
“The shootout experience is not as much about wins and losses as it is getting the kids involved in the off-season,” Dalton said during his postgame comments. “We want to change the culture and get the kids excited about basketball.”
Dalton said June has been a busy month for the Cougar basketball team, highlighted by the York Shootouts.
“Being the host team for the shootouts has its advantages,” he said. “The kids sleep in their own beds. There is no travel time.”
Dalton said the experience helps all the players, starters as well as reserves.
“Our varsity team, along with potential JV and ninth grade players, participated,” he said. “It was a chance to evaluate personnel and for our players to get as many reps as possible.”
TayWaun Neely was among the varsity Cougars getting plenty of reps.
“It’s good competition to get us ready for the regular season, said Neely. “We still practice hard, but the shootouts give us the game experience we need.”
Dalton has been pleased with the growing number of participants meeting the off-season demands.
“We’ve had better participation in the June activities than last year,” he said. “We took the players to Landrum, where they were successful against the opposition.
“We also have the UNCC camp.”
Dalton said the busy slate of June activities will be the last until practice begins in the fall for the regular season.
“After the Cougar players have met the off-season demands, we will turn them loose to participate in other sports,” he said.