CLOVER — The Clover Blue Eagles basketball team used defense to build a 28-7 halftime lead en route to a 53-42 home win against Fort Mill on Friday.
In an earlier game, the Lady Blue Eagles lost a down-to-the-wire Region 3-AAAA clash to Fort Mill’s Lady Yellow Jackets, 57-53.
In the boys game, Fort Mill scored the first baske t and John Wilson drilled a 3-pointer, staking Clover to a 3-2 lead, after which the Blue Eagles never trailed.
“Our first-half defense made the difference,” said head coach Bailey Jackson. “How many times do you hold a team like Fort Mill to seven points in one half?”
The Blue Eagles were still in the playoff mix in Region 3-AAAA entering this week. “Our kids are playing at a higher level,” said Jackson.
Junior Bryce Allen made his presence felt in a dominant first quarter for the Blue Eagles.
After Wilson scored the Eagles’ first basket, Allen scored to push the lead to 5-2. Fort Mill sliced the lead to 5-4, but Allen made two technical free throws and another free throw to stretch the lead to 8-4.
The Blue Eagles closed the first-quarter scoring with a basket by Alex Love and a power move to the basket by Ladarius Adams to make the score 12-6.
Clover’s defense limited Fort Mill to a single point in the second quarter.
The Eagles’ offensive production continued, with senior Rae Armstrong joining Allen and Thompson in a second-quarter scoring spree.
Clover built a 36-19 advantage in the third quarter on contributions by Allen.
To their credit, coach Dwayne Hartsoe’s Yellow Jackets cut into Clover’s lead to trail by 10 in the latter stages of the fourth quarter; but the Blue Eagles sealed the win down the stretch.
Allen led the scoring for Clover with 21 points. Thompson scored 16 points and Wilson finished with six.
A large contingent of Clover fans is expected to accompany the team to York on Friday night. “We know York is a big rivalry game,” Jackson said. “They have two of the top scorers in our region.”
Lady Blue Eagles
In the girls game, Sydney Sanders scored with 2:02 left, staking the host Lady Blue Eagles to a 51-50 lead.
After Fort Mill moved ahead 54-51, Sanders converted two free throws, slicing the lead to 54-53. Fort Mill then made a free throwto go 55-53.
Senior post player Telliya Patton stepped to the charity stripe with 3.7 seconds remaining. Her first attempt looked good but rimmed out.
Patton made the second attempt bounce out to allow for a possible game-tying shot, but the Lady Blue Eagles were unable to regain possession.
“We wanted Telliya’s second freed throw attempt to bounce off the rim for a chance to tie the score with a basket,” said CHS coach Kiki Walker. “It almost worked.”
The frantic fourth quarter included several lead changes, with the CHS girls clinging to a 42-39 lead to start the quarter with a noisy crowd reacting to every play.
Sanders paced the scoring for the Clover team with 14 points. Elizabeth Edmunds was next with 12; Patton, 10; and Shay Hall, 8.
Walker lauded the players for gutting it out. “The kids played hard from start to finish,” said Walker. “Fort Mill is a great team. They are ranked No. 9 in the state.”
Walker, a former Lady Blue Eagle standout, is excited about Friday’s game at York.
“We know there will be a big crowd at the game,” she said. “We want to compete, play hard and have fun, which is what the York-Clover rivalry is all about.”