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The Clover High School cage teams were primed for first-round playoff games this week.
Coach Sherer Hopkins’ Lady Blue Eagles were set to host Mauldin Tuesday at 6 p.m., with Bailey Jackson’s Blue Eagles on the road Wednesday to face No. 1-rated Irmo.
The Lady Blue Eagles overcame a slow start with a second-quarter scoring barrage and continued to dominate the proceedings in the second half, defeating the rival Lady Cougars of York, 57-13.
The CHS girls scored only two baskets in a first quarter that ended with the teams deadlocked at 4-all.
Senior forward Lauren Richardson scored the first basket in the opening moments of the game and junior teammate Breshayla Hall converted a pair of free throws to conclude first-quarter action as the Lady blue Eagles were unable to penetrate a tight zone defense employed by visiting York.
But that would soon change as the Clover team picked up the pace in the second quarter and led by a dozen at halftime, though York was still within striking distance. The Lady Blue Eagles came to life in the third quarter, bolting to a 37-6 advantage by the end of the quarter.
The third-quarter scoring surge included balanced scoring and defensive pressure.
Senior standout Ashia Good got things started with a pair of baskets to open the quarter.
Then, sophomore Ryehia Robbins got into the action, scoring six points in a two-minute span.
Hall added two baskets late in the quarter and sophomore Sydney Sanders closed out the scoring as host Clover built an insurmountable lead.
Hopkins talked about constant defensive pressure as a telling point.
“We stepped up the defensive pace after a slow start,” she said. “York is a well- coached team, but we were able to pull away with defensive pressure.”
Hopkins and most of the Clover players are no strangers to postseason play.
“We’ll be focused for the playoffs and take the games one at a time,” the former Lady Blue Eagle standout said before Tuesday’s playoff opener. “We’re familiar with the playoff experience.”
The Clover boys’ 56-40 win over the Cougars was closely contested for most of the first half, with the Blue Eagles maintaining a double digit lead in the second half.
Senior playmaking guard Taylor Hoover spearheaded the Blue Eagles’ second-half run that sealed the win, scoring off the penetration dribble and dishing off to an open teammate when the path to the hoop was cluttered.
Hoover, who finished with a game-high 20 points in his final home game, scored nine points in the decisive third-quarter uprising, including a dipsy-doodle down the lane that brought a roar from the Clover faithful.
Junior forward Alex Thompson, who also finished in double figures with 15 points, had key baskets down the stretch as the Blue Eagles refused to allow the Cougars to cut into the double digit lead.
Jackson pointed to defensive tenacity as the key factor in defeating rival York for the third time this season.
“We played great defense, with RJ Moore, Jevon Blake and Ladarius Adams leading the way,” Jackson said. “We held York, a team with outstanding shooters, to 40 points. Taylor had an outstanding game offensively.”
Shifting his focus to the playoff opener, Jackson lauded the players for making the postseason.
“The kids worked hard to reach the playoffs” he said. “We’ll accept the challenge on the road.
“We will strive to become a playoff regular.”
Note: Both Clover playoff games were played after the Enquirer-Herald went to press this week. Details will appear in next week’s paper.