Sports

Jackets buzz 'Cats

Fort Mill's Torrell Priest eases his way to the basket.
Fort Mill's Torrell Priest eases his way to the basket.

Coach Bailey Jackson said he doesn't think about it, while guard Torrell Priest says it's in the back of his mind.

Whatever the thought process is, the fact remains Fort Mill's creeping ever closer to another standard of excellence -- a perfect season.

"We just play one game at a time," Jackson said in perfect coachspeak, minutes after his Yellow Jackets obliterated Rock Hill 74-46 on Friday. "These guys just work on (our game). This was a good win, but we got a big game Monday night against Northwestern."

The top-ranked Jackets (19-0, 9-0 Region 3-AAAA) hold a two-game lead over the Trojans in the standings and only have five games left to play. They've already beaten York and South Pointe, tied for third place, twice each and although they have two games remaining against second-place Northwestern, the mark is on the horizon.

Priest, who scored 18 of his game-high 21 points in the first half, said an undefeated season is an accomplishment, but not one the Jackets are necessarily bent on achieving.

"We practice hard, to keep the dream alive," Priest said. "But we know it's going to be a hard road."

True, but it could get a lot easier if Friday's performance is repeated.

Rock Hill (6-10, 4-6) worked the ball around to burn almost a minute off the clock in the first quarter before Colby Niven drove the lane for a 2-0 lead. Fort Mill coolly ran to the other end, Garrett Copeland nailed a 3-pointer and the race was on.

The Bearcats camped behind center Chalmers Rogers, which shut off the Jackets' first offensive weapon. But since it's hardly a non-imitated tactic, Fort Mill simply switched to the secondary -- firing away from the arc.

Copeland's shot began a run of four 3-pointers in the first quarter, opening a 22-9 lead, and once Rock Hill began sticking closer to the perimeter, Fort Mill began plucking rebounds. Priest shot between gaps for uncontested layups and knocked in three 3-pointers as the Jackets quickly built a sizable lead.

"We try to get Chalmers the ball, and to Cam Smith. We got the two best post players in the state," Priest said. "But when they're guarded, the rest of us got to step up, so I started shooting and the other guys did, too."

The lead swelled to 30 midway through the third quarter and the Jackets could afford to relax, not that it was desirable. A series of sloppy passes turned into a screaming tirade from Jackson during a timeout, which became two straight forced Rock Hill turnovers and six Fort Mill points.

The brutally efficient rout was over quickly, neither team reaching the bonus on a scant 16 total fouls. Fort Mill ended the evening without an attempted free throw.

Jackson pointed out he didn't plan to shoot the 3-pointer so much -- the Jackets canned 10 -- but it was the way it began. A win over Clover last week was kick-started because the Blue Eagles removed the 3-point option, forcing the Jackets inside.

Against Rock Hill, it was the opposite.

But it still worked.

Well.

"It would be tough to decide which one to take away," Jackson said. "But when we shoot like we did tonight, it's tough to guard one option."

Rock Hill coach Bobby Stevens lavished praise on the Jackets and said he was satisfied with the Bearcats' effort. They had a good game plan but one missed shot turned into five, all becoming Fort Mill buckets.

"It was like we were in quicksand and they were on snowboards," Stevens said. "They blew around us like we were standing still.

"There are times when they're shooting like that that you just have to sit back and enjoy it."

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