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Having completed the non-region portion of the 2012-13 schedule, the Clover High School varsity basketball teams are ready for the real deal, the season that counts, if you will.
Both teams travel to Nation Ford Friday night, where a Region 3-AAAA double-header is on tap.
Coach Sherer Hopkins' unbeaten Lady Blue Eagles will be pitted against the Nation Ford girls at 6:30 p.m. to start the evening's proceedings.
The CHS girls are the defending region champions, having finished last season with a perfect slate in region play and 21-5 overall.
The Lady Blue Eagles lost leading scorer and all-state performer Bria Huffman to the college ranks, but return a strong nucleus for a shot at the region title.
Sophomore forward Elizabeth Edmunds has been an offensive presence in early-season games, averaging double-figures. She scored a season-high 26 points against Charlotte Country Day.
Edmunds says she's playing with more confidence this season and looks for the Lady Blue Eagles to remain a force.
“We're playing together as a team and working hard to improve our defensive play,” she said.
Swift playmaking guard Aaliyah Knox, whose penetration dribble is among the upstate's finest, is vital to the team's success.
Knox is an energizer bunny on the court.
“I play with passion, win or lose,” assures the senior floor leader. “That's the only way I know to play the game.”
The Lady Blue Eagles nudged Gastonia Ashbrook in a closely-contested game played last week.
“The kids played hard, played together and held on for the win,” Hopkins said of the winning effort.
The Clover contingent defeated Hunter Huss Friday on the road for win number four on the season. Hopkins is pleased with the team's play in the early stages of the season.
“Players are stepping up which is what we're looking for as we get into region play,” said Hopkins.
The resurgent Blue Eagles of first-year head coach Bailey Jackson, a Clover High graduate living out his dream to someday coach the Clover team, will battle the Nation Ford boys at 8 p.m. Friday in the NF gym.
Senior floor leader Taylor Hoover brings stability to the backcourt.
Hoover, a steadying influence on the court, has assumed a leadership role this season.
“It's all about execution as we get into region play,” he said.
The Blue Eagles extended unbeaten Hunter Huss to the limit on the road last Friday, with Huss prevailing 72-63.
The teams played on near-even terms for much of the game, with Huss pulling away down the stretch.
In earlier action last week, the CHS boys defeated Gastonia Ashbrook 59-46, with the Blue Eagles gaining the advantage from the outset.
First-year varsity player Arnaldo Toro, a 6-foot-7 sophomore, continues his emergence as a force in the paint.
Toro scored 23 points and hauled in 15 rebounds in the win over Ashbrook.
“Toro continues to make his presence felt,” noted Jackson. “He scored 17 points against Hunter Huss.”
Both CHS varsity basketball teams will host a three-day holiday tournament Dec. 20-22. Tournament details will appear in next week's Enquirer-Herald.