The end of the Clover High School boys’ basketball season was bittersweet for the players and coaches.
The bitter was back-to-back overtime losses to rival York to conclude the regular season and to Spartanburg in the opening round of the class AAAA playoffs.
But the sweet was winning the Region 3-AAAA championship after being picked to finish sixth in a seven-team region.
Playing at home in the playoff opener, the Blue Eagles lost 68-66 loss to the Spartanburg Vikings.
“We didn’t come out very strong to start the game,” coach Bailey Jackson said. “They didn’t do anything we didn’t think they were gonna do. We didn’t do some of the stuff we worked on in practice.”
Added Jackson: “We did come back. “We were in a situation where we should’ve won the game. We didn’t.”
He gave credit to the visiting Vikings.
“They hit the shots,” he said. “They wanted it a little bit more than we did.”
Jackson said missed opportunities were costly.
“We had the turnover in the last minute,” he said. “We had a chance for a six-point possession on the technical foul and only got two points out of it. There were the little things that cost us at the end.”
The first quarter ended with the teams deadlocked at 13-all, with Aaron Milner, John Wilson, Bryce Allen and Austin Stone providing the offensive punch for the Blue Eagles.
Spartanburg used outside shooting to gain the upper hand in the second quarter.
Clover’s R. J. Moore and Stone contributed to the scoring in the second quarter, but it wasn’t enough, and the Vikings entered halftime with a 35-27 advantage.
The Blue Eagles came out as the aggressor in the third quarter.
After Milner scored to start the second half, Allen drilled a three-pointer and Moore scored, slicing the Viking’s lead to 35-34.
The Blue Eagles trailed 44-42 to start the fourth quarter.
Sophomore guard Quise Robbins scored the first basket of the fourth quarter to tie the game at 44-44.
Later in the quarter, with Clover trailing 51-45, Moore hit a pair of free throws and Milner was true from the charity stripe, slicing the lead to 51-48.
After Spartanburg pushed the lead to 53-48, Robbins went on a scoring binge.
The 6-foot-1 guard was true from three-point range and scored on the next possession, deadlocking the score at 53-all.
Robbins’ two free throws pushed the Blue Eagles ahead 55-53 with time running out.
Spartanburg answered in the waning seconds, sending the back-and-forth game into overtime.
Milner got things started for the Blue Eagles with a tap follow for a 57-55 Clover lead.
After Spartanburg answered, Allen put Clover back up 59-57. The Vikings tied the score again, with Robbins scoring to regain the Clover lead at 61-59.
Spartanburg then nailed a three-pointer to regain the lead at 62-61.
Moments later, with the Blue Eagles trailing 66-63 and with 23.6 seconds on the scoreboard clock, Robbins drilled three, knotting the score at 66.
Spartanburg made its last possession count with a game-winning shot, advancing the Vikings to the second round of the playoffs.
Though Clover finished the season with two overtime losses, the Blue Eagles exceeded expectations as region champs.
“I am proud of this group,” said Jackson. “Some of these guys have been with me for three years. They bought in to what we’re trying to do. They helped our younger players buying in.”
Added Jackson: “The future’s bright. We’re not going anywhere.”