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The Blue Eagles of Clover High School, 7-6 for the season and 1-3 in Region 3-AAAA entering this week’s play, travel to rival York Friday night, with the tipoff slated for 8 p.m. following the girls game at 6:30 p.m.
First-year head coach Bailey Jackson, a Clover native, is no stranger to the York-Clover rivalry.
“Obviously, Clover and York have a long tradition of playing each other and it is always a great atmosphere at either place,” said Jackson.” York is talented and I know will be ready to play on Friday.
“We will need to contain their dribble drive and execute on our offensive end to be successful.”
Though Jackson has been pleased with the progress the team has made, he said the Blue Eagles need to play at a consistent level each and every night.
“We have too many periods of time when we do not play with intensity,” he said. “The effort has been great and the kids are really buying into what we are trying to do throughout the whole program.
“We try to improve each day and always take a step forward. “
An intense fourth-quarter rally fell short as the Blue Eagles lost 66-58 to region foe Fort Mill at home last Friday night.
Friday’s game was an intriguing matchup, considering Jackson’s successful coaching tenure at Fort Mill, where he took the Yellow Jackets to a state title in the 2006-07 season.
Jackson, a Clover High School graduate and former Blue Eagle player, came home to coach, succeeding Dudley Lybrand, who built a solid program at CHS.
Jackson was recognized for recently winning his 200th career game, most of which occurred while he was coaching the Yellow Jackets.
Free throw shooting in the fourth quarter enabled Fort Mill to stave off the Blue Eagles’ gutsy rally in the final quarter.
The Yellow Jackets of coach Dwayne Hartsoe stood tall at the charity stripe, converting 27 of 34 for the game and 19 of 23 in the decisive fourth quarter.
Fort Mill senior Rylan Wells had deadly accuracy at the free throw line, converting 12 of 14 for the game.
Trailing by 16 points to start the fourth quarter, the Blue Eagles sliced the lead to single digits but were unable to overtake the lead.
The Blue Eagles’ late-game rally fell short, but not before Taylor Hoover and Bryce Allen ignited the home crowd with clutch baskets that trimmed the lead to a workable margin.
Hoover drilled a 3-pointer with 2:30 left, slicing Fort Mill’s lead to 50-42.
The drama thickened when Allen scored with 37 seconds showing on the scoreboard clock, and suddenly, the Yellow Jackets’ lead was 58-52.
But Fort Mill was equal to the challenge, securing the hard fought road win at the charity stripe.
The Blue Eagles outrebounded the Yellow Jackets, creating second-chance opportunities near the basket.
Jackson kept the foot on the pedal when the Blue Eagles were staging their comeback, keeping fresh legs in the game by subbing five at a time.
He lauded the players’ effort in turning a potential blowout into a close game.
The Blue Eagles had balanced scoring, with three players in double figures.
Hoover and Alex Thompson each scored 12 points to pace the scoring. Six-foot-7 Arnaldo Toro scored 10 points. Allen finished with 9 points; Mark Cavanaugh, 5; RJ Moore, 3; Jevon Blake, Ladarius Adams and Raekwon Armstrong, 2 each; and John Wilson, 1.
After battling rival York Friday night, the Blue Eagles step back into the region Monday, hosting Rock Hill at 8 p.m.
Preceding the boys game will be a 6:30 p.m. girls game, with the Lady Blue Eagles pitted against the Lady Bearcats.