CLOVER — Bailey Jackson, head boys’ basketball coach at Clover High School, knows a thing or two about off-season preparations demands.
Prior to hosting a basketball shootout Saturday in the school’s new and old gyms, the Blue Eagles participated June 12 in a York shootout.
“With games in the Clover and York shootouts and other June activities, we’ve played 15 games in 19 days,” said Jackson.
Most high school basketball coaches, Jackson included, consider the scores of shootout games to be incidental.
“We play everyone in the shootouts,” Jackson said. “It’s a chance to look at different combinations.”
The varsity Blue Eagles were competitive in the York Shootout, including a 54-28 conquest of East Gaston from across the border. The Blue Eagles trailed much of the first quarter, with Aaron Milner, Bryce Allen and Justin White scoring enough points to end the quarter with a 10-10 tie.
Clover built a lead in the second quarter, with Allen and R. J. Moore contributing to the offensive production. A highlight of the second quarter was John Wilson’s aggressive scoring move to the basket, which put Clover up 23-16 at the half. The Blue Eagles pulled away in the second half for the win.
The most exciting game in the York Shootout was Clover’s narrow 41-40 loss to Union. The CHS boys fell behind 5-4 in a low-scoring first quarter. With aggressive play from post player Austin Stone, shooting and rebounding, the Blue Eagles trailed 16-14 at the half.
Allen, a rangy sharpshooter with slick ball-handling skills, was more than the Yellow Jackets could handle in the second half, especially in the fourth quarter. Clover’s Mark Cavanaugh opened the fourth quarter with a three-pointer that knotted the score at 27-all.
Later, with the Blue Eagles trailing 33-29, Milner stole an in-bounds pass and scored, slicing Union’s lead to 33-31. Consecutive baskets by Allen pushed the Blue Eagles ahead 35-33.
Moments later, with Union clinging to a 37-35 lead, it was Allen knotting the score at 37-all. With the game winding down, the Yellow Jackets led 41-37.
Once again, it was Allen scoring a crucial basket, trimming to lead to a scant point (41-40) with a clutch three-pointer. Allen’s long-range shot at the buzzer narrowly missed as the Yellow Jackets survived.
Continuing to rotate players in the shootout format, the Blue Eagles extended a strong Spartanburg team to the limit, with the Vikings pulling away in the fourth quarter to win 52-40.
Justin White’s basket early in the fourth quarter sliced the lead to 38-35 before the Vikings’ final run.
Allen said he’s always had confidence in his shot.
“I work on my shooting year-round,” he said. “I have to stay with it.”
Allen said participation in the off-season shootouts enables the Blue Eagle players to learn a lot about the team.
“We’re pulling together and playing well,” he said. “We need to keep working hard to be ready for the coming season.”
Wilson agrees shootouts are a good experience for the team.
“We’ve played well in the off-season,” Wilson said. “I’ve worked hard to improve my game.
“I feel good about a new season coming up.”
Moore is aggressive with the ball, always looking for space to maneuver.
“I can shoot from the outside but prefer to take it to the hoop,” he said.
Moore shares his teammates’ views of the 2014 regular season that begins in November.
“I’m excited,” he said.
Once this month is completed, Jackson said the players and coaches will spend time with their families.
“The players have worked hard,” the CHS head coach said. “They need to do other things.
“Compete in other sports, just be kids.”