COVER — Ready. Aim. Fire. When Taylor Hoover steps to the free throw line, the fearless playmaking guard wastes little time releasing the ball, regardless of the circumstances.
Ready. Aim. Fire.
When Taylor Hoover steps to the free throw line, the fearless playmaking guard wastes little time releasing the ball, regardless of the circumstances.
Hoover toed the charity stripe Saturday night against visiting Nation Ford with 5.1 seconds showing on the scoreboard clock and the score knotted at 47-all.
The gritty senior mainstay sent the faithful Blue Eagle crowd into a frenzy when he converted both free throws, securing a 49-47 Region 3-AAAA win.
After the game, Hoover talked about his quick-draw reputation in a hallway leading to the locker room.
“I shoot my free throw like I shoot my regular outside shot,” he said with a boyish grin.
The Blue Eagles appeared to be in the driver’s seat when Aaron Felder nailed a 3-pointer to start the fourth quarter, expanding Clover’s lead to 36-24.
But Nation Ford had other ideas, nailing four 3-pointers and slicing the Blue Eagles’ lead to a single point at 43-42 in the latter stages of the quarter.
The CHS team continued to respond with clutch free throws as a Jevon Blake charity toss made it 44-42.
Hoover made two free throws and Thompson followed with a free throw, pushing Clover ahead 47-44 with 21 seconds left in the game.
Nation Ford wasn’t through yet, though, drilling yet another 3-pointer to tie the game before Hoover’s dramatic conversions at the line sealed the win.
“They hit their 3-pointers and we responded for a big region win,” commented Hoover. “We responded to the pressure tonight and will need more of the same in our remaining region games.”
Blue Eagle head coach Bailey Jackson lauded the players’ gritty effort in a down-to-the-wire finish.
“We played great defense and boxed out their post players,” Jackson said. “They hit their 3’s and we made clutch free throws down the stretch with the game on the line.”
Jackson said defense will be a real key as the Blue Eagles enter the stretch run in region play. “How we finish in the region will determine our playoff status,” he said.
Thompson, who along with Hoover led the CHS team in scoring with 12 points, agreed with his coach that defense made the difference in the game.
“We took away their inside game with a solid defensive effort,” observed the junior forward after the game. “They had to shoot from the outside.”
Concluded Thompson, “Defensive play and offensive rebounding will be the keys to success as we continue region play.”
The first half was closely contested as Clover built a 9-6 first-quarter lead.
Nation Ford sliced the lead to a single point at 9-8 to open the second quarter.
Thompson followed with a putback and Felder scored, extending the lead to 13-8.
Midway through the quarter, with the score knotted at 15-all, 6-7 post player Arnaldo Toro converted a pair of free throws as the Blue Eagles regained the lead.
With the clock winding down in the first half and Clover clinging to a one-point lead, Blake’s drive to the basket and subsequent free throw pushed the Blue Eagles up 22-18 at the half.
Seeking more success in region play, the CHS boys make the short trek to Fort Mill Friday, with tipoff time slated for 8 p.m. following the girls 6:30 p.m. game.